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Dictionary of 

Word Origins 


ALittlefield, Adams 
Quality Paperback 








A Modern American Herbal 







317 BUSINESS BASICS An Outline of Business 
Theory and Practice 

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?il i^GRafl ECON 

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;.^ 2Jir<iAW'or't!aMMtpciAL m 

"'^ 23'5'*LAW'0T PARtrlrtSHIP 

HISTORY (Continued) 




42 HISTORY OF EUROPE 1500 1848 

318 lAPAN A Concise History 


34 SOUTH ASIA A Short History of the Subcontinent 












Shipley, Joseph Twadell 

Dictionary of word origins 



ami Driv 






1. Doctor Shipley's book is an effective guide to the 
history, the origins, ^the background, and the psychological 
usage of words. :.■■; y 

2. The story behind each word is given with its asso- 
ciated terms so that the dictionary makes easy and interesting 

3. Recent words from science, from warfare, and from 
politics have been included. 

4. Burton Rascoe says of the book: "There is great fun 
as well as a liberal education, in reading Dr. Shipley's fasci- 
nating study of words. It is a much-needed supplement to all 
the dictionaries." 



Joseph T. Shipley, Ph.D. 



Totowa, New Jersey 


1967 Edition 


Copyright 1945 
By Philosophical Library, Inc. 

Reprinted: 1979 

Printed in the United States of America 


Jay R. and Jennie Shipley 



To know the origin of words is to know how men think, how they have 
fashioned their civilization. Word history traces the path of human fellowship, 
the bridges from mind to mind, from nation to nation. 

And our language is truly international. The American speech, like the 
American people, comes from all over the world. Not two percent of our 
English words first rose in the British Isles. Somewhere in the Near East they 
seem to have started, in that Garden of Eden of earliest man. By one path they 
wandered up rivers, breasting the Danube into the heart of Europe, roaming 
westward with the Teutons and the Anglo-Saxon speech. On other journeys 
they took the water route of the great midland sea. Along the shores of the 
Mediterranean, they lingered in Greece, they built on the seven hills of Rome, 
and through the Romance language rejoined the Teuton strains to form our 
English. Twenty-five percent of our words migrated along the rivers; fifty 
percent, by the sea. The rest were gleaned from here, there, and the farthest 
corners — brought home by the three restless minglers, the soldier, the trader, 
and the priest. 

Some of the words in our language can be traced to a remote past; some 
have histories that begin but yesterday. Many are members of Jarge families, 
with intertwining legend and history; others, like Topsy, "just growed.'- Slow 
change, swift new coinage of science or slang, ancient or recent borrowing from 
many tongues: together they give flexibility, power, and beauty to English, the 
richest and most widespread language of all time. Of this great gathering of 
words, I have set down those that have origins at once interesting and en- 

Our word history is our race history. The basic democratic process is the 
shaping of speech. Every man has his tongue in it; the fool as surely as the 
sage, the peasant and the thief as richly as the robber-baron and the millionaire. 
The triumphant nobles of William the Conquerer, like the "fig-showers" of 
ancient Greece, are buried beneath the dust of time; but stories of both are 
caught in the words silly and sycophant. 

An insight into man's growth; a fresh color and vividness of language; a 
quickened understanding of our words themselves: these are some of the by- 
products of a look into word origins. The present dictionary opens such a vista. 

No effort has been made to include the slang of the moment — most of 
which dies with its hour. Some picturesque new words, however, have found 
their way into the volume, either as illustrating a constant language-process, or 
behind the skirts of more respectable relatives. 

My thanks to the several friends that have made suggestions — and to any 
readers that may care to send further thoughts. 

Joseph T. Shipley 



aphesis : the loss of an initial letter or syllable, as in drawingroom, from mnthdrannng- 
rooni. The word that remains is called aphetic. 

assimilation : the shift of a sound to match its neighbor, e.g., assimilation^ from Latin 
ad-\-simil — . Cp. dissimilation. 

augmentative: a form added to a word (or the new word) indicating something more 

than the original word, e.g. Italian -elli, -one; trombone. 
back-formation: a word, or the creation of a word, from what is apparently a more 

complex form of the word ; thus grovel is from groveling. 

causal : a form indicating action to produce that named by another form of the word ; 

thus lay, to make lie; to fell is the causal of to fall. 
cognate : not immediately related, but from the same source. Italian and French arc 

cognate languages, both from Latin; fatherly and paternal are cognates, the first 

via AS. through OHG, fatar, the second via L. through Gr. pater, both from a 

word akin to Sanskrit pitar, father. 
dead metaphor : a figure of speech lost in the history of a word ; what is now the 

normal sense was once a metaphorical application. Very many of our words are 

such tombs; see, e.g. delirium; pluck, in the main list, 
degeneration: pej oration, g.v. 
diminutive: a. form added to a word (or the new word) indicating something less 

than the original word ; e.g. Italian -ini; French -ette; English -kin, -ling : 

duckling, darling. 

dissimilation: the shift of a sound so as not to repeat its neighbor; e.g. angel from 

Gr. aggelos. Cp. assimilation, 
doublet: one word of two identical in origin. A list of these appears in Appendix I. 

There may also be triplets and quadruplets, 
echoic : onomatopoctic, q.v. 
elevation: melioration, q.v. 
euphemism : a term employed to avoid direct mention of an unpleasant idea ; e.g., 

gone west for died. 
frequentative : a verbal form indicating the repetition or rapid perform.ance of the 

action of the simple verb, e.g.^ startle from start. 
ghost-word : a word produced by a misprint or other error, e.g. tweed. 
Grimm's law : the principle of consonantal shift in words of Indo-European origin ; 

explained at end of this list, 
inceptive : a verbal form indicating the beginning, or the first stage^ of an action : 

usually Latin -escere, French iss, English -ish. Thus adolescent is an inceptive, 

becoming adult; vanish; coalesce. 
intensive : a form expressing increased force, as splash from plash. The prefix com, 

together, was used in Latin, sometimes, in the sense of altogether; this us« 

survives in, e.g., commence, commend, conclude. 
melioration: improvement of meaning (during the history of a word), as with 

beuntch. Also called elevation, 
metathesis : transposition of letters in a word, as fringe from Latin fimbria. 

nonce-word: a word employed but once; either for a unique purpose, or as a new 
term that did not win acceptance; e.g., manikins with capkins (little caps). 

onomatopoctic: (Echoism is often used, today, for onomatopoeia.) imitative of a 
sound, as. bang, murmur. 

origin of speech, theories gf : See end of this list. 

pej oration : development of a worse meaning (during the history of a word), as with 
villain, silly. Also called degeneration. 



pejorative; lessening the value of: implying scorn, as the suffix in g&ngster, racket^rr, 


pleonasm : unnecessary repetition — sometimes buried within a word, as in darling, 

which is a double diminutive, -/ + -ing. 

portniantcau-word : a word formed by pressing two together, eg. brunch from 
breakfast and lunch; chortle from chuckle and snort. Also called telescoped. 

reduplicated: formed through repetition of sound; see scurry, in the main list. 

slide: the movement in meaning (during the history of a word) from the whole range 
of a scale to a specific point, usually one end, of that scale; e.g., temper, humor. 

telescope : See portmanteau-word. 

variant : a different form of a word, usually due to local peculiarities of dialect. 


The Grimm (Jakob, died 1863) that helped gather the fairy tales also produced 
Grimm's law of consonant shifting. Simplified to cover just the English field, it may 
be stated thus : 

Group the consonants in three scales : 

GUTTURALS : g. k, kh (Latin, h), g 
DENTALS: d. t, th (Latin, /), d 
LABIALS: b, p, ph (/), b. 

Each Teutonic word begins one letter in its scale above the corresponding 
classical word. For instances : 

GUTTURALS : genus-kin, gelid-cold; circle, (h)ring; choler-gall, host-guest. 
DENTALS : dual-two, dactyl-toe; trivial-three, theme-doom, fume-dust. 
LABIALS : paternal-fatherly, putrid-foul; fertile-bear,. fragile-break. 


No primeval man has left a record of the way in which language started. It 
may have begun in individual cries, of pain or fear, or wonder, or triumph and joy ; 
but it was soon brought to social ends, for the communication of these and other 
feelings and desires. None of the theories of origin of speech fully explains its 
complications; scientific opinion is indicated by some of their names. There is the 
botfj-wow theory, which pictures language as springing from spontaneous animal 
tries. Or you may choose the pooh-pooh theory, which sees the start of words in 
emotional outbursts. Perhaps, instead, you prefer the ding-dong theory, which sets 
language arising from imitation of natural sounds. The word-stuff of the first theory 
still appears in the noises we use to say yes (uhhuh.), to indicate that we haven't heard 
(hnnn?). to mark our hesitation (hmmm.) or our scorn (hn!). The second theory 
finds support today in exclamations (Ah!..Ow!) and calls (Ho I.. Hey!) The 
third has the richest body of actual speech to favor it, in the many onomatopoetic, 
or echoic, words : hum; thud; bump; boom; buss; murmur; hisi. 



AFr . 

. . .\nglo-French 

Arab . 

. . . Arabic 


. . . Aramai£ 

AS . . 

. Anglo-Saxon 

c . . . 

century, centuries 

ca . . 

. about 

Celt . 

. . Celtic 

Chin . 

. . Chinese 

cp . . 

. compare 

d . . . 


Dan . 

. . Danish 

Du . . 

, . Dutch 

e.g. . . 

. for example 


. . . Egyptian 

Eng . 

. . English 

esp . . 

. especial, -ly 

Fr . . 

. French 


. . . Flemish 

G . . . 


Gael . 

. . Gaelic 

Goth , 

. . Gothic 

Gr . . 

. Greek 


. . Hebrew 


. . . Hindi 


. . . Hungarian 

Icel . 


i.e. . . 

. .hat is 

Ir . . 

. irish 

It . . . 


Jap . 

. . Japanese 

L . . . 

, Latin 

Lith . 

. . Lithuanian 

LG. , 

, . Low German 

LL . . 

, . Late Latin 

M . . . Middle (before another abbrev.) 

MDu . 

. . Middle Dutch 

ME . . 

. Middle English 


. . . Middle High German 

mod . 

. . modern 


. . . modern Latin 


New English Dictionary (Oxford) 


. . . Norwegian 

0. . . 

Old (before another abbreviation) 

ODu . 

. . Old EKitch 

OE . . 

. Old English 


. . . Old High German 

Olr . . 

. Old Irish 

ON . . 

. Old Norse 


. . . Old Norman French 


. . . Old Teutonic 

Pers . 

. . Persian 

Pol . . 


Port . 

. . Portuguese 

Prov . 

. . Provencal 

q.v. . . 

. which see (plural qq.v.) 

Rom . 

. . Romance, Romanic 

Rum . 

. . Rumanian 

S . . . 



. . . Sanskrit 

Sc . . . 



. . . Scandinavian 

Slav . 

. . Slavic, Slavonic 

Sp. . 

. Spanish 

Sw . . 

. Swedish 

Teut . 

. . Teutonic 

Turk . 

. . Turkish 

+ . . . 

combined with 

?... origin questionable 





When we speak of a thing as Al, wc 
mean that it is excellent in all respects. 
In Lloyd's ships' register, which records 
the condition of all vessels at all times, 
the condition of the ship's hull is in- 
dicated by letter; of its equipment, by 
number; hence the ship-shape quality of 


This animal from South Africa has a 
name that has traveled, too. It is Du. 
aardf, earth -|-Du. tw6, OK fearh, from 
OHG. farh, cognate with L. pore-, pig 
(whence Eng. pork) : earth-pig. There 
is also an aard-wolf in those parts. 


A Broadway play of the 1944 season 
(The Duke in Darkness, by Patrick 
Hamilton, with Philip Merivale) brings 
this word to mind, from its threat to the 
main character. The word hides a much 
more sinister deed, being merely from L. 
abacinare, abacinat-, from ab, off, -|- 
bacinus, basin. The basin was used in 
medieval times when a man was blinded 
by holding hot metal in front of his eyes ; 
to abacinate is to blind in this fashion. 
(For basin, see basinet.) 


See calculate. 


This word of five letters had originally 
four separate parts. The o is an OE. pre- 
fix or preposition, meaning on, at The b 
is what is left (before A vowel) of bi, be, 
a preposition meaning about The aft was 
OE. aeftan, from behind ; this is from af, 
meaning off, away, -f the superlative end- 
ing ta. Hence also after, more away, 
which was originally the comparative 
form of af, off, away. OE. af is cognate 
with L. ab, away; with Gr. apo (thus 
apothecary was first a storekeeper, ^rom 
Gr. apotheka, store, from apo, away, -f- 
tithenai, to lay: to lay away), and Sans. 

apa. The L. and the Gr. prefixes, ab and 
apo, are frequent in Eng. words. 

See ban. 


"Baa, baa, black sheep" begins with 
an imitative cry. The natural sound of 
the mouth opened wide in surprise or 
shame gives us ba! See abeyance. 


The lessening accomplished in this 
word was evidently effected through no 
peaceful means. It is from Fr. abaitre, 
from LL. abattere, from ab, off, down 
-f battere, from battuere, to beat. The 
same word pictures the old wall of 
felled trees, the abattis; also, the mod- 
em slaughter-house, the abattoir. 

The same L. battuere, via Fr. battre, 
arrives at Eng. batter; and battery, at 
first the beating (assault, q.v., and bat- 
^f^y), then the means for delivering it. 
The Battery, New York, was the site 
of a fort. Via Fr. bataille, from LL. 
battualis, the adjective from battuere, 
come battle and battlement; battalion 
is, from Fr. bataillon via It. battaglione, 
diminutive of battaglia, from L. bat- 
tualia, neuter plural of battualis. This 
may seem like baitology, which is, from 
Gr. battologos, stammerer, from Battos, 
man mentioned in Herodotus, iv, 155, -f- 
logia, from logos, word, from legein, to 
speak. May the battles abate I 

abattis, abattoir. 
See abate. 


This word has traveled far, but a 
straight journey, from AS. abbod, from 
L. abbas, abbot — , from Gr. abbas, from 
Aram', abba, father. Beyond that, it is 
drawn from the calls of the babe. Babe 
and baby are likewise imitative of the 
sounds of the infant. So too are papa 
and mamma; whence L. mamma, breast 


and the 7nammals all. (Note that pap, 
witli its diminutive papilla, is also a 
term for the breast; wlience possibly L. 
and Eng. pabulum, food, and L. pasccre, 
past — ;o feed, whence Eng. pasture, the 
. pastor of the flock ; and Algonkin pa- 
pousf. Lp. congress. We speak of the 
paschal lamb; but this is in celebration 
of the Hebrew holiday, from Gr. pascha, 
He!), pcsakh, from pasakh, to pass over, 
because tiie angels of the Lord, in smit- 
ing the first-born of the Egyptians, 
passed over the houses of the Israel- 
ites — v\ho shortly thereafter passed over 
the Red Sea.) Papal, papacy, and pope 
are derived from papa, which was early 
used for bishop. 

An early 20th c. art group, looking 
for a name, decided that, while the first 
emotional cry of the infant was ma-ma, 
its first groping toward intellectual ex- 
pression was da-da; hence, dadaism. 


See abridge. 


-S>t' verdict. 


There are two suggestions as to the 
source of this word. As it is the pouch 
or paunch of the body, where things are 
stowed away, it may be from L. abdere, 
abdif — , to stow away, to hide, from ab, 
away, -f dare, dat — (see dice), to give, 
to put. From this word there were early 
Eng. abdite and abditive. But the most 
visible part of the abdomen is its rounded 
outside ; the first meaning of the word 
was the fat belly ; and it may come from 
L. adrps. adipcm, fat. This + the sufTix 
— nsHS, full of, gives us Eng. adipnsc. 
Adcps is the scientific Eng. -'ord for 
animal fat. Adept, however, is from L. 
adipisci, adept — , to attain, from ad, to + 
op—, get. 

There is an Eng. abdite, hidden. Cp. 


See (hike. 


See bait. 


This word, indicating what you "hold" 
something in when you haven't yet re- 
ceived it, originally pictured the ap- 
pearance of the expectant one. It is 
by way of the Fr. a, at -\- beer, from 


LL. badare, to gape. (Whence also the 
modem Fr. aboyer, to bark.) Through 
the Fr. esbair, esbaiss — , to make gape 
(L. ex -f ba!) we have abash, and 
bashful. The simple noun (Fr. baie, 
from OFr. bace, bayer, to gape) has 
thus run two courses. As the sound 
of impatience (related to an original 
ba, the exclamation of surprise) it be- 
comes the baying of hounds ; thence, 
their pressing upon their quarry until 
it is forced to stand at bay. Hence 
also an obstacle, an embankment or 
dam. As the gap, the opening, it has 
come to refer to a space between two 
columns, and to such recesses as a 
horse-6(7y (stall), ■i\ck-bay on a ship, 
and /)(/y-window. Tiiis meaning has in- 
tertwined with the body of water, bay, 


If something makes your hair stand on 
end, you abhor it, from L. abhorrere, to 
shrink back, from ab, away, + horrere, 
to stand on end (of hair). The noun 
horror is directly from the L. ; the pres- 
ent participle of abhorrere is (Eng. also) 
abhorrent. Horrible and horrid, at first 
referring to the victim, have both been 
transferred to the cause, like the little 
girl with the. curl in the middle of her 


See bottle. 


This word for a servant girl grew 
into common use from several instances. 
Abigail (Heh., source of joy) was the 
wife of Nabal (Bible, I Samuel xxv) ; 
she introduced herself to David and 
later married him. Beaumont and 
Fletcher, shortly after the King James 
Version, 1611, of the Bible, used the 
name for a maid-servant in their play, 
The Scornful Lady, 1616. It was sim- 
ilarly used by Swift, Fielding, and 
others ; then Queen Anne of England 
was attended by one Abigail Hill . . . 
thereafter the word could be spelled 
without the capital A. 


This word was originally related to 
one's power to hold on to things ; it is 
from the L. noun habilitas, from the ad- 
jective habilis, habile, from the verb 
habere, habit-, to have, to hold. Both 
able and habile come from this ; able at 
first meant easy to handle ; then possess- 


in)? ease in handling. The Fr. habiller, to 
make ready, then to dress, gives us Eng. 
habiliment; directly from the L. is habit; 
see customer. Many writers in the 16th 
and 17th c wrote hability, trying to shift 
from the Fr. to the L. spelling ; but by 
1700 the form ability had prevailed. 

These transformations — of habit; cus- 
tom, costume; habiliment — suggest indeed 
that clothes make the man; the original 
sense, however, remains in habilitate and 
rehabilitate. The word have is from OE. 
habbcn, haefde; and a place that holds 
you (safely) is, via OE. haefen, a 
haven. This is common Teut., Dan. havn, 
transformed in the Eng. form of the 
rtame Copenhagen. 

See subject. 

See suffer. 

See ability. 

See lotion. 

See bottle. 


This is one of the few words that has 
grown stronger in meaning down the 
ages. The L. ab^ away, -|- olere, to grow, 
from its inceptive form abolescere, led 
to Fr. abolir, aboliss — , to do away with; 
whence abolish. (An instance of a word 
that has grown weaker in meaninr is 
debate.) The inceptive with prefix ad, to, 
L. adolescere, adult — , gives us adolescent, 
adult; see world. 


Omens, or signs of >vhat is to come, 
were usually dreaded; most often, the 
sign was of evil. Hence the L. expres- 
sion absit omen: May the omen be 
away. Hence an abominable thing was 
one to be away from, to be avoided ; 
hence, a hateful or disgusting thing. 
In the 14th c, however, Wydif (follow- 
ing the Fr.) spelled the word abhoviin- 
able, as though it meant away from 
man (L. homtn, man), inhuman, beastly. 
Shakespeare also uses this spelling, 14 
times, e.g. As You Like It, IV, i, 6. 

An abortive effort, in the days of sun 


worship, might have meant one in which 
the striver turned from the east; see 
orient. Eng. abort is directly from L. 
aboriri, abort — , to miscarry, from ab, off, 
away, -|- oriri, to appear, arise, come into 
being. As an aborted child was usually 
ieformed, the word was for a time spelled 
abhor sion, as though related to abhor, 

See abundance. 


Like many other words that have 
come down from early Eng. {e.g., abaft), 
several small words have merged in this 
one. It is OE. on, on -f- be, by, near, + 
utan, outside : near by the outside of. 
Hence, near by ; at first applied to posi- 
tion only, the word was soon used in 
many figurative ways, to mean nearly. 
around, etc. 


The first part of this word (for the 
second, see board) is twisted, from AS. 
abufan, from buTOH, from be ufoH, by 
upward, from uf, up. The whole word 
(this sounds like a charade 1) draws its 
meaning, honest, from the suspicion that 
one might not be honestsT It refers to 
the fact that one must shuffle cards 
above the board, i.e., the table, so as 
to obviate the possibility of slipping in 
or changing cards. (Charade scans to 
come, from Prov. charrada, from char- 
rar, to prattle ; whence also charlatan, 
from It ciarlare, to chatter. Similarly 
quack, an imitative word, is applied to 
a ^Quacksalver, a doctor whose prattle 
sells his salves.) 


This word of medieval magic is 
traced to a mythical Persian sun god, 
summoned to the magician's aid. But 
also, its letters add (in numerology) to 
365, so that it encompasses the entire 
year and the powers of the 365 at- 
tendant spirits of the Lord. 

It . is not a corruption of the Cabal- 
listic Heb. habraha dabar, bless the ob- 

abrade, abrasion. 
See rascal. ( L. ab, off, + radere, ras—. ) 


To make a bridge, or short cut, to 
something, is not the origin of this 
word. It comes through Fr. abridgier. 



from abrevier, from L. abbreviare, to 
shorten, from breins, short, whence Eng. 
brief. Related are Gr. braxys and Eng. 
break. Later on, directly from the L., 
came the doublet of abridge, abbreviate. 

See ancestor. 


See askance. 


This is directly from the present par- 
ticiple, absent — , of L. absum, abesse, to 
be away. The Fr. pronoimciation permits 
the well-known pun ; when some one com- 
plained that a friend did not come around : 
"// s' absent trap" ; another replied, in ex- 
planation : "// s'absinthe trap." (He ab- 
sents himself too much. He absinthes 
himself too much.) Absinth, absinthe, is 
from L. absinthium, wormwood, the 
plant from which the drink is made. 

absinth, absinthe. 
See absent. 


H you are absolved you are set free 
(from sin and guilt, in church use), 
from L. absolvere, absolut — , from ab, 
from, -f- solvere, solut — , to loosen. But 
if you are loose, free from ties, you are 
acting wholly by yourself ; hence the 
sense of absolute monarchy and the like. 
The solution of a problem is that which 
loosens it — especially if it be a knotty 
one; then of course you have solved it. 
Chemical solution is aphetic for dissolu- 
tion, a loosening apart (L. dis, away, 
apart) ; the verb still retains the full 
form, dissolve. The L. solvere is from 
L. se, apart fas in segregate, to set apart 
from the herd. L. grex, greg — , herd, 
whence also Eng. aggregate (ag, ad, to) 
and gregarious] -\- luere, to pay, to clear 
(of debt), to wash clean, from Gr. louein, 
to lave. Earlier is the Aryan root lau, to 
wash (whence Eng. lather) ; whence OE. 
leag, whence Eng. lye. On this trail, com- 
bining OE. lafian, to pour water, and L. 
lavare, lavat—, to wash, comes Eng. 
lave; see lotion. 


This humorous coinage of mid 19th c. 
United States has ancient antecedents. 
The ab is L. ab, from ; the ending — 
ulate, an active verbal suffix, perhaps from 
L. ferre, lat — , to bear : hence, to carry 
away from a squat. Squat is from OFr. 
esquatir, esquatiss — , (whence also 

squash), from LL. quatere, quass, to press 
flat, to crouch ; from LL. type coactire, 
from L. cogere, coact — , to squeeze, from 
CO, together, -f agere, to do, to make. The 
present participle of cogere is cogens, 
cogent — , whence Eng. cogent, pressing 
together, hence constraining, powerful. 
There was an uncompressed combination 
of L. agere and co, as well : coagere, 
whence the LL. frequentative coagulare, 
coagulat — , whence Eng. coagulate — not 
far in its fashioning from the word we 
began with ! 


This is a word that came from the Fr. ; 
then it was respeiled to make it nearer 
the original L. OFr. astenir (whence 
early Eng. asteine) is from L. abstinere, 
from abs, off, -|- tenere, to hold. The 
simple verb gives us directly Eng. tenant, 
one holding; and, via the adjective, ten^ 
acious. Cp. lieutenant. The present parti- 
ciple of abstinere is abstitiens, abstinent — , 
whence Eng. abstinent. The meaning of 
this word has influenced and made more 
general the sense of abstemious, q.v. 


If liquor is too strong for you, you 
will choke on it. Sansk. tarn, to choke, 
to be breathless, whence L. temum, 
strong drink, whence temetutn, liquor, 
whence temulentus, drunk. If you keep 
away from this (L. ab, abs, away) you 
are abstemious (-ous, from L. -osus, 
full of, full of keeping away from 
strong drink) ! 

See abstain. 

See attract. 


The L. word surdus had several re- 
lated senses. Originally meaning deaf, it 
was soon extended to mean mute also. 
We use it in that sense in phonetics, the 
surds being the consonants uttered with- 
out voice, as p, t, k; opposed to these 
are the sonants b, d, g (sonant is direct 
from the L., being present participle of 
sonare, sonat — , to sound; consonant, 
sounding together; sonata, etc.). Then 
the L. word surdus was used to translate 
Gr. alogos, in the tenth Book of Euclid's 
Geometry (geo — , earth, -|- metron, meas- 
ure : first used in surveying; geography, 
writing about the earth ; cp. graft, sar- 
cophagus) ; hence it came to mean irra- 
tional (Gr. a, away irom, -\- logos, word, 
reason). The same surdus also was used 


to mean inaudible, or insufferable when 
heard (so that you wish you were deaf I) ; 
with ab as an intensive, this became Eng. 


See buccal. 


When fortune, or wealth, rolls upon 
you in waves (as may it often!) you 
enjoy things in abundance (L. ab, from 
-|- unda, wave). For a time in the 
middle ages, this was spelled habund- 
ance, as though from habere, have : to 
have in plenty. (For a similar mis- 
spelling, see abominable.) Abound is 
of course from the same word. When 
the sea comes in less pleasantly, we 
speak of an inundation (in, into-|- 
unda). The wavelike motion of a ser- 
pent, or the rise and dip of the country- 
side, is likewise a Latin figure of 
speech : undulation. 


See usury, urn. (from L. abuti, abusus, 
from ab, away + uti, usus, to use) : the 
word meant to use up, then to disuse, then 
to misuse. ( L. dis, away ; mis — from 
OFr. mes from L. minus, wrongly, as in 
mischance, miscarriage, mischief : early 
Eng. cheve, from OFr. chever, from chef, 


See butt. 


This name for a school, as many 
knaw, is carried over from the early 
days of Athens, when Plato taught in 
the grove called the Academeia. Not 
so many, however, know how the grove 
got its name. 

A fateful young lady named Helen 
in her early days was carried from 
Sparta by the hero Theseus. Her 
brothers, Castor and Pollux (they are 
still to be seen in the sky : the con- 
stellation called Gemini, the twins) 
went in search of her, and a farmer 
named Academus put them on the right 
track. Since then, the grove on the 
farm of Academus was protected; the 
city grew around it, and it was in that 
grove, the Academy, that Plato spread 
his tables when he held his symposiums 
(q.v.). Cp. Platonic. 


This word springs from a translation 
into Latin (accentum, from ad, to, -|- can- 


tus, singing) of the Greek prosodia (from 
pros, added io,-\-ode, song). Syllables 
spoken with a grave accent were in a 
deep voice ; those in an acute accent were 
a musical fifth higher; those with a cir- 
cumflex {circum, around, -\- flex, from 
L. ftectere, flex, to bend ; whence Eng. 
flexible, reflect) began high and dropped 
a fifth while sounding. 

With the shift from length and pitch 
to volume, in language sounds in the 
English tradition, the word has come to 
mean the stress ; also, the sign that in- 
dicates any such emphasis. 

By way of It. canto from L. cantus 
comes Eng. canto, a song, or a section of 
a poem (as Dante's Divine Comedy) ; 
via the Fr. comes chant; cp. saunter. 


See ancestor. 

See cheat. 

See collar. 


The word mode was anciently used 
(L. modus, measure) to indicate one of 
the scales in Greek' music ; then a 
tune ; then a manner of singing ; then 
the manner of doing anything. To 
moderate is thence, from L. moderari, 
moderat-, to give measure to. The 
diminutive of modus, modulus, similarly 
gives Eng. modulate; and, via It. 
modello, whence Fr. modele, Eng. mod- 
el, a little measure, criterion. A modest 
person is one whose ways are measured. 

If things tune together well, they 
are attuned or accommodated to each 
other, (from L. accommodatus, from 
ac, from ad, to, with, + com, together, 
-f- modus). With L. dis, away from, 
we have discommode. Commode was at 
first an adjective, meaning convenient 
(measured together) ; in the 17th and 
18th c. it became a noun, applied to 
various convenient things, from a head- 
dress to a procuress, from a toilet to 
a chest of drawers ; at the same time 
the intensive adjective commodious (L. 
-osus, full of, whence Eng. -ous) was 
introduced. A commodity was a con- 
venience, then an opportunity, then ad- 
vantage, then a thing to sell at an ad- 
vantage, merchandise. Be modest, but 
not too accommodating. 


See plot. 



accord, accordion. 

See prestige. 


When you greet a person, you are 
(or were, before the telephone) likely 
to be at his side. Accost is from L. 
ad, at, to + costa, rib, then side. Thus 
the side of anything is also its coast, 
especially, today, tlie side of the ocean. 
To coast means to sail along the shore ; 
then, to sail leisurely. However, from 
the side of a hill (which we no longer 
call its coast) we retain the meaning to 
coast, to slide downhill, as on a sled ; 
thence, to ride without using power, 
as downhill on a bicycle to greet a 
friend at the station. 


See calculate. 


There are two stories suggested for 
this word. It may be from Fr. ac- 
coustre, from OFr. const eur, the sac- 
ristan of a church, one of whose duties 
was to care for the sacred vestments, 
from L. custos, sacristan, whence cus- 
todian. Or it may be from L. consu- 
tura, a seam, from consuere, to sew to- 
gether, whence Fr. coudre -f- ac, from 
ad, to. Either way, it covers the clothes. 


L. ad, to -|- cumulare, from cumulus, 
a little pile, a mound. Thus when we 
say that a man has accumulated a for- 
tune, we are putting into formal terms 
the thought that he has "made his pile." 


If you take pains, your work is 
likely to be accurate. Precisely ; for 
its origin is L. ad, to + cura, pains, 
care {curare, curatus past participle, to 
take care). Hence a curate is one to 
whom is entrusted the care, or (the 
term is still thus used) the cure of 
souls. To cure, heal, is obviously the 
result of taking care. Make something 
with care (as curiously first indicated) 
and it will be well-wrought, worth tak- 
ing note of. Hence the various mean- 
ings of curious; also, curio, curiosity. 
Something that has the power to heal 
is curative; one that takes care of a 
building or of a lunatic is a curator. 
Thus the one word has been applied to 
the agent {curate; curious person), the 
act {cure), and the product {curious 
object; curio). Curiosity is the quality 

in you ; a curiosity is the thing at which 
you wonder. In applying your terms, be 
accurate. To procure (L. pro, in behalf 
of) originally meant to obtain with care, 
to secure — the first sense of wliich was 
in the adjective secure (L. se — , apart), 
remote from care; hence, safe. A pro- 
curator was a man in charge of the 
Emperor's treasury, in ancient Rome; it 
remains as an historical term, but for 
practical use has been contracted (and 
diminished in sense) to proctor. Sim- 
ilarly the old procuracy, which meant 
managing or acting for another, has 
dwindled into the common proxy. 


See acetylene. 


It all began with wine that turned 
sour. Latin for vinegar (from Fr. vin 
aigre, sour wine) was acetum, from acere, 
acet — , to be sour. Hence, acetic acid, in 
more scientific term. Adding Gr. yle, 
substance, gives us Eng. acetyl, the basis 
of the acetic series of chemicals. Add to 
this the Greek ending that means female 
descendant (i.e., a weaker substance, from 
the "weaker" sex) and you have acety- 
lene, from which organic compounds can 
be produced. From the same acere, via 
the adjective acidus, comes Eng. acid, etc. 
The root is not sour but sharp, L. ac — , 
as also in acme, acumen, q.v., etc. From 
the same source is acne, or "the rosy- 


Samuel Johnson, in his Dictionary, per- 
manently confused us about this word. 
Deriving ake (A.S. aeon, whence OE. 
aecc) from Gr. axos, he said the spelling 
should be ache. Normally, in words of 
the sort, the verb in English has kept the 
k spelling and sound, the noun has taken 
the ch sound and spelling. Thus bake, 
batch; break, breach; make, match; speak, 
speech; stick, stitch; wake, watch. 
Here also, probably, belong eat and etch. 
Shakespeare distinguishes between the two 
forms ; but we have given both of them 
the ch spelling and the k pronounciation. 
— Unless, of course, we use ache to mean 
the eighth letter of the English alphabet. 

.A.1I the verbs above are common Teut. 
words: bake from AS. bacan; break {see 
discuss) from AS. brecan; make from 
AS. macian (the past tense, made, is 
telescoped from makede) ; speak {see un- 
speakable) from AS. sprecan, specan; 
stick {see attack) from AS. stician, to 
pierce; Wake {see vegetable) from AS. 



wacian. A batch was, first, a "baking" 
of bread. A match was, first; one of a 
pair made; used esp. of animal and hu- 
man mates ; hence, to match. The match 
we light is via Fr. miche, wick, and LL. 
mysca, from Gr. myxa, slime, snuff of a 

The axos from which Johnson thought 
ache to be derived is cognate with L. 
agere, axi, actum, to do, to drive, to 
move ; whence axis; action; see exact. 
From cupi (com, co) together, -\- agere, 
came LL. coagulare, coagulat — , to draw 
together, whence Eng. coagulate. The Gr. 
myxa, candle snuff or slime, is used as a 
prefix in Eng. technical words, e.g., myx- 
oma, myxomycetes. But Gr. mixo — is 
the root from which comes also L. mis- 
cere, mixtus, to mix; whence Eng. mix, 
promiscuous ; and directly from the Gr. 
such compounds as mixolydian, mixo- 
gamous, mixtilinear. Which makes quite 
a mixture, if not a headache! 


This word gives us a headstart for a 
long journey. Contracted from the Fr. 
venir a chief, to come to a head, from 
L. ad caput venire, it originally meant 
to come to a peak, to end. Death is 
the most significant end; thus Shake- 
speare says: {Henry V, IV.iii) "Bid 
them atchieve me, and then sell my 
bones." He also uses it to mean merely 
to bring to an end: (Coriolanus, IV, 
vii) "He does atchieve as soon As 
draw his sword." But the best end is 
a happy ending; in Shakespeare's time 
all three senses were employed: 
(Twelfth Night, V,i). "Some atchieve 
greatness, some have greatness thrust 
upon them." ME. had a bOHchief (L. 
bonus, good) which we have lost, while 
preserving its more prevalent opposite, 
mischief (L. minus; Eng. amiss). 
Shakespeare coined the adj. mischievous. 

Through the Fr. (ME. chef) also 
comes chief, the head person or, as an 
adj., the most important. The full noun 
is chieftain, an early form of which 
was chevetaine, which is closely allied 
to captain. Captain is indeed the same 
word, coming more directly from the 
L. caput, head. (Head itself is a wide- 
spread word : AS. heafod, G. Haupt, 
ON. hofuth, Goth, haubith, cognate 
with caput.) Cp. cad. There are many 
words from this source. Capital means 
relating to the head, as capital punish- 
ment ; or standing at the head, as capi- 
tal letter, capital (city), capital (prop- 
erty). To capitcdise and capitalist fol- 


low from this use. Architecture still 
uses the word capital as the head or 
top of a column. Capitol was the tem- 
ple of Jupiter, at the head (top) of the 
Satumian hill in Rome, whence the hill 
was called the capitoline ; now a capital 
is an official state-house. To arrange 
items by headings was to capitulate 
them; whence the word was applied to 
stipulated or drawn up terms of a 
treaty ; even in LL. a surrender is a 
capitulation. What men once, and boys 
still, put on their heads, is a cap; the 
middle ages (St. Isidor; Papias, ca. 
1050) derived this from capere, capt — , 
to take : all men were taken beneath the 
cap of the church; but this is folk ety- 
mology. The French still picture cape, 
chapel, etc., from capere, quoting Isidor 
de Seville "cape, because it captures 
(capiat) the whole man." 

From capital, property, whence ME. 
chatel (whence c/ui</W-mortgage), catel, 
we derive what was long the most im- 
portant property, cattle; thus to ask 
"How many head of cattle?" is to re- 
peat oneself. 

Cap-a-pie (the French now say de 
pied en cap) means from head to foot, 
as knights were fitted with armour, for 
soundest defense; hence they were ir; 
excellent shape, or (again folk etymol- 
ogy) in apple pie order. Cape, meaning 
a cloak, originally a cloak with a hood, 
is also from caput; from it the LL. 
verb caparo, to put a cloak on, gives 
us the word caparison, to harness, to 
bedeck. More directly from caput is the 
same word cape as applied to a headland, 
earth jutting into the sea. The biceps 
(L. bi, two) seem to have two heads. 

The word cappa had two medieval 
diminutives. Cape{ine, a skull-cap of 
iron worn by archers, survives in medi- 
cine as the bandage a surgeon makes 
(in the form of a sort of cap) for 
amputations or head-wounds. Cappella, 
a cloak, which has changed its form, 
has the more interesting history. For 
the cloak of St. Martin was preserved 
as a holy relic, and the guardian of 
this cappella (OFr. chapele ME. cha- 
pele) was the chaplain; the place where 
it was kept, the chapel. As this part 
of the church is not equipped with an 
organ, the It. a capella, from the 
chapel, has come to be the musical 
term for singing without accompani- 
ment. Chaplet, another diminutive, is 
still used as a headdress of flowers. 
The hood worn by the Knights of the 
Garter (attendants on the Queen) was 

Achilles tendon 


a chaperon; hence the application to 
any guide and protector. ME. chapiter, 
applied to a heading, then to a main 
division of a book, became chapter; in 
turn this was applied to the religious 
meetings where a chapter was read, 
then to those that met, and we have 
the chapter of a fraternity. Much 
more could be given on this head; but 
toi escape monotony let us add only that 
often a man grasped by his cloak would 
slip out of it and flee — whence L. ex 
cappa, out of the cape, whence OFr. 
escaper (whence Fr. echapper), whence escape. Which in itself was an 

Achilles tendon; Acbillcs' heel. 

The tendon of your heel takes its 
name from the story, that Achilles at 
birth was dipped in the Styx to make 
him invulnerable. His mother, the 
Nereid Thetis, held him by the heel — 
during the Trojan War, Apollo revealed 
this to Paris, whose shot thus slew 
the Greek hero. Your Achilles' heel 
is your vulnerable spot. Siegfried (as 
Samson was betrayed by Delilah, who 
cut his hair : and his name symbolizes 
strength ; hers, treachery) was seduced 
into marking his one vulnerable spot 
with a leaf ; there an arrow pierced 

acid, acme. 

See acumen. 

See acetylene. 


This word is common Teut., O.E. 
aecern, Goth, akran, fruit of the open 
fields and forests, from Goth, akr, OE. 
aecer, open field, akin to L. ager, Gr. 
agros, 5"ansk. ajras, whence Eng. acre, 
q.v. The Gr. word first means wild land, 
whence L. agrestis, wild, Gr. agreus, 
hunter ; L. peragrare, to wander, whence 
(via the adjective peregrinus) Eng. pere- 
grination, cp. belfry. Advancing civiliza- 
tion then changed the meaning to that 
which we associate with agriculture , from 
L. agri cultura^ tilling the field, from 
colere, cult, to cultivate {cultivating the 
favor of the gods is to attend them, to 
worship them; hence cult). The most 
common "fruit of the forest" in northern 
Europe and England was that of the oak 
tree ; hence the aecern by association with 
that tree was variously called okecorne, 
okchnrne, akern, accorne, and finally 



This word, a plural formed by analogy 
with politics, mathematics, ciincs, etc., 
comes via Fr. acoustique from Gr. acous- 
tikos. relating to hearing, from Gr. 
akouein, to hear. Although we apply 
this word to auditoriums (from L. audire, 

audit — , to hear, -| orium, place where ; 

cp. audit), there is an Eng. word, now 
obsolete, which neatly fits our radio talks; 
acousmata (plursl of Gr. acousyna, any- 
thing heard), things accepted on author- 

acquaint, acquaintance. 
See quaint. 


See acquit. 


To quit is to leave a place quiet 
(L. quietus). LL. acquietare, to settle 
a claim {ac, from ad, to) meant that 
a man was thereafter left at peace ; so, 
today, one can be tried but once for 
any crime. From the inceptive form 
of the verb, acquiescere, to rest, comes 
Eng. acquiesce. 

This word is, from L. ager, fertile 
country, field, from Sumerian agar, a 
watered field, from a, water. Potter/ 
Field {Bible, Matthew xxvii, 7 : pur- 
chased with the thirty pieces of silver 
Judas threw away before killing him- 
self) was once a field whence potters 
drew their clay ; the soil rapidly de- 
composed the bodies . . . the free burial 
ground was later called God's acre. Cp. 
saunter; goodbye ; acorn. A wiseacre has 
no relation to such fields, but is a com- 
bination of G. IVeissager, know-sayer, 
prophet, and G. Wahrsager, truth- 
teller, soothsayer. Ou this path, via 
ON. saga, come saga, a saying, tale ; 
and, via AS. witig, wit; see moot. 

acrid, acrobat. 

See acumen. 


Two arrangements of Greek verse 
were: (1) in strophes, (from strephein, 
to turn; cp. apostrophe) ; and (2) 
'!tichic, (from stichos, row) or in con- 
tinuous lines. (The former was used 
mainly in the drama ; the latter, in the 
epic.) An acrostic {cp. acumen) is a 
row at the front, i.e., the first letters 
of each line in succession spell a word 



Originally, if this occurred at the end 
of the lines, the poem was a telestich 
(Gr. tele, far) ; now acrostic is used for 
both types — also if the significant let- 
ters criss-cross or run down the center. 
Note that there is also a rare adverb, 
acrostic, meaning slantwise, formed di- 
rectly from the Eng. word across. Cp. 


See exact. 


See element. 

action, active, actor, actual. 

See exact. 


L. acus, needle, whence acuere, acut — , 
to sharpen. From these came the L. 
noun acumen, which we have taken 
directly, but use only in the figurative 
sense, as sharpness of mind. The adj. 
acute is used both figuratively (sharp- 
witted) and literally (acute angle, 
sound, accent). The same word, by 
aphesis, has become the familiar cute. 
Other forms appear in scientific use. 
The diminutive aculeate means equipped 
with a sting (insects) or with thorns 
(plants) ; aculeolus, a double diminutive, 
is used of cactus with many small 
prickles ; and there are a dozen more 
such terms, as aculeiform, acuminate, 
acupressure (in medicine), acupuncture, 
acutifoliate, acutonodose. 

The Gr. akme, point, gives us acme, 
highest point. Also, the akropolis (Gr. 
akr — , point -\- polts, .city; cp. police) 
is on the highest point in Athens. 
Acrobat is from Gr. akrobatcin, from 
akros, point (of toes) -f batos, past par- 
ticiple of bainein, to go. 

Through OFr. ague, whence Fr. aigue, 
trom L. acutus comes Eng. aque 
(originally, ague fever), thus a doublet 
of acute. OE. ecg, from OFr. ague, 
(whence G. Ecke, corner) gives us 
edge, and egg, in to egg on. (Hen's 
egg, earlier ey, from AS. aeg, is com- 
mon Teut.) By a slightly different 
route Gr. akro, comb, peak, whence L. 
acer, acr — , sharp, whence Fr. aigre, 
gives us Eng. eager; also directly acid, 
acrid, acrimonious. Be eager to sharpen 
your sense of word-values. But don't 
be acrimonious. 


See acumen. 

See diamond. 

Adam's apple. 

.According to folk physiology, the body 
of the first man was wiser than his 
soul. When Adam took from Eve his 
piece of the forbidden fruit, a bit of 
it, they tell us, stuck in his throat ; hence, 
the lump now called the Adam's apple. 
Adam's ale and Adam's wine are hu- 
morously intended names for water. 


We often say Take away, instead of 
subtract ; but instead of add we do not 
say Give to. Yet that is exactly what the 
word itself says, from L. ad, to -f dare, 
to give — dare, datum, see dice; addere, 
additum, whence also Eng. addition. The 
gerundive (what ought to be) of addere 
is addendum, used directly in English ; as 
is also the gerundive of agere, to do: 
agendum, plural agenda; cp. ache. 


See add. 


See auction. Note that "mad as a hat- 
ter" (G. natter, adder) is not a slur 
upon the makers of our headgear, but 
really a reference to the snake. Hat 
(AS. haett; ON. hdttr, hood), hood 
(AS. hod; G. Hut, hat), hut (G. 
Htitte), heed (AS. hedan; G. hiiten) 
are all common and related Teut. words, 
with the basic idea of protection of the 
head (AS. heafod; Du. hoofd; Goth. 
haubith; cognate with L. caput; cp. 


See verdict. 


See add. 


This word has an addled history. In 
ancient Greece, an egg that did not hatch 
was called a wind-egg, Gr. ourion oon. 
Translated into L. as ovum urinum, this 
was confused with ovum urinae, egg of 
urine, rotten egg. The OE. word for 
urine was adcia; hence the early ex- 
pression addle-egg. The word was soon 
applied figuratively to persons; Shakes- 
peare says (Romeo and Juliet III, i, 25) 
"Thy head hath been beaten as addle as 
an egg." Addle-pate and addle-head are 
frequent compounds; then the form 


addled was used (before the verb, to 
addle). We may still, call a man a bad, 
or a good, "egg". 

Fuddle (earlier fuzzle, to make drunk) 
is perhaps coined on the analogy of 
addle, from judder, a tun of wine. 


This word (L. adeptus) was taken as 
a title by the alchemists that claimed to 
have attained the secret of the philoso- 
pher's stone. It is from L. adipisci, 
adept — , to attain, from apisci, to reach, 
inceptive of a root ap — , to get. An 
adeptist was a 17th c. term for an al- 
chemist of repute. See abdomen. 


A person departing was wished "Fare 
well" : good going ; cp. dollar. And to 
the ones left behind, the journeyers said 
"A Dieu" — I commend you to God, from 
Fr. d dieu, to God. This is the Fr. equiv- 
alent of goodbye, q.v. 


Sec abdomen. This is but vaguely re- 
lated to avoirdupois, which should be 
avoirdepois, from Fr. avoir, to have, -(- de, 
of, somt -\- pois, weight. (Tl>e de was 
changed to du about 1650, through ig- 
norant "correction"). The avoir, how- 
ever, is originally the noun aveir, "hav- 
ings," property, goods (hence, goods of 
weight) ; the pais is from OF. peis, 
from L. pesutn, pensum, weight — related 
to pensum, thought ; whence Eng. pensive 
Thus L. pendere meant to hang (Eng. 
p.ndant), to weigli, and to consider; cp. 
Of gravate. 

See subject. 


This originally meant to set a day for 
someone to appear ; then, to put off until 
another day; then, just to put off. It is 
via OFr. ajorner, ajourner (Fr. jour, 
day) through LL. adjornare, adiumare, 
from L. ad, io ■\- diurn — , daily; whence 
also Eng. diurnal; see jury, which often 
is adjourned. 

See just, verdict. 


To swear or bind to a purpose ; see 

Sec youth. 



Perhaps it is the resplendent uniform 
of the sea-lord that put the d into his 
title, as though the word were related 
to admire! It is rather, from Arab. 
amir, prince, frorrt Heb. amir, head, 
summit, and was first used of chief- 
tains on either land or sea. In fact, 
the OFr. had a special word, halmyrach, 
for a sea-admiral ; influenced by Gr. 
liiiiiiiyrDS, briny sea. The suffi.x- — al 
is from LL. — aldus, G. — IVatd, as in 
Reginald. But see emir. 

See admiral, emir. 


See mess. 


See fee. 

See abolish, world. 


When we call someone an Adonis, we 
mean that he is handsome enough to be 
loved by Venus herself; for the goddess 
of love was enamoured of the youth 
Adonis. He was killed by a boar, while 
hunting. The Gr. verse supposedly first 
composed in laments for his death, is 
called Adonic. 

Boar is common Teut., related to bear. 
To bore, to pierce (AS. borian) is also 
very common Teut. Its meaning of bore- 
dom may have come from the idea of 
boring the ears (G. drillen, to drill, also 
means to plague) ; since, also, slaves had 
to listen to their however prosy masters. 
Indeed, many a man since Adonis has 
been "bored to death"' ! 

The name Adonis is from Phoenician 
adon, lord; related to Heb. Adonai, God. 


See pessimist. 


See inexorable. 


This word is commonly derived from 
'L.adorare, to pray to, from ad, to + 
orare, to pray. But it is so much 
stronger in its implications of the 
adorable one, that it is probably more 
directly from L. ad, io-\-os, oris: the 
same adorare, but meaning directly to 
put the mouth to, to kiss in worship. 
See inexorable. 





See augment. 

See quaint 


See dexterity. 

See wheedle. 

adult, adulterate. 
See world. 


To shadow forth (L. ad, to). See um- 
brage ; cp. overture. 


The 15th and 16th c. scholars reshaped 
many Eng. words after their supposed 
La^in originals. Thus OFr. avouterie, 
avoutrie had produced Eng. avowtrie, 
avoutrie; this was reshaped into adultery, 
as though directly from L. adulterium; 
cp. world. The Fr. avant, before, found 
Eng. forms in avance, avantage. And 
here the scholars made a mistake. Think- 
ing these were traceable (as is the word 
adventure) to the prefix ad, to, they 
changed them to advance (to the van) 
and advantage — your benefit for getting 
there first. But advance is really from 
L. ab, away, + an<f, before (LL. abante, 
whence the verb abantiare, whench Fr. 
avancer). To get away before meant 
rather to move forward than to get a 
head start ; but the error is preserved in 
the spelling. Van itself, shortened from 
vanguard, Fr. avantgarde (see vamp) re- 
turns us to the same word. 

See dollar. 

adversary, adverse. 

See advertise. 


To advert is to turn to (L. ad, to 
-f- vertere, vers — , to turn. Hence 
also adverse and adversary, where the 
ad has the sense of warning. In fact, 
through Fr. avertir, avertiss — , the Eng. 
advertise (the d restored when L. was 
studied) originally meant to warn. 
Modem use has increased the need of 
the warning. 

Avert and averse are from L. ah, 
from -\- vertere, versus. The abbrevia- 
tion vs. is for L. versus, against, taken 
directly. See conversion. 

advice, advise. 
See improvised. 

See buck. 

See tycoon. 


See meteor. 

aerie, aery. 
See debonair. 


See debonair, nausea. 

See anaesthetic. 

See hibernate. 

See defeat. 


This word is the result of two com- 
pounds of one L. word. The simple L. 
facere, fact — , to make, to do, is itself 
fertile in Eng. words, e.g., faction, (orig- 
inally a making), fact (a thing done), 
factitious (made by human skill), factor, 
factotum (L. totum, everything). Fiction 
is from finger e, fict — , to shape, to fash- 
ion ; hence fictitious, made up ; earlier fic- 
tive; cp.' faint. 

In combinations, L. facere became 
ficere; hence adficere, afficere, affect — , 
to do to, act on, influence. The act of 
influencing or of being influenced — hence, 
of feeling — was affection, which from any 
mental state slid along the scale {see 
preface) to the kindly feelings. The re- 
sult, when action on something is carried 
out (L. ex, out), is the effect. Cp. de- 

The frequentative of L. afficere, af- 
fect — , is affectare, affectat — , to seek to 
do, to aim at. This has given us the same 
verb affect, but in the senses to aspire 
toward, to be fond of, hence, to assume 
as an air or as one's character . . . even 
as a false character ; from this verb we 
have the noun affectation. With the words 
themselves thus intertangled it is little 
wonder that the schoolboy is similarly 

affectation, affection. 
See affect. 




affiance, affidavit. 

See fiancee. 


See finance, para. 


See infirmary. The first sense was of 
assuring someone, as still in the solemn 
statement I affirm . . . 

See fix. 


When your spirits are cast down by ad- 
versity, affliction is indeed upon you. 
The word is the noun from afflict, from 
L. affligere, afflict — , to distress, from 
af, ad, to, upon + fligere, flict — , to dash. 
To dash upon someone was to afflict him. 
The word was earlier spelled flight, chang- 
ing as did delight, q.v. This had of 
course no connection with flight. Note 
that this word, flight, combines in its 
spelling and meaning two unrelated 
words, both common Teut. : AS. fleogan, 
to fly; and AS. fleon, to flee; cp. fleet. 
The two verbs, however, were confused 
even in Anglo-Saxon. The flea is also 
from fleon; the fly, OE. fleugon; cp. 
lobster. A fly in the theatre is a (side) 
part of the scenery (usually plural, the 
flies) hoisted out of the way when not 
needed; or the space over the proscenium 
where such scenery is kept. Other com- 
binations are clear ... It is not easy to 
flee from affliction. 


To him that hath shall be given. 
Things just seem to flow toward him, 
until they overflow, and he is affluent 
(L. ad, towards -|- fluens, flowing, 
from fluere, to flow). From the L. 
idjective come fluid and fluidity. Easy 
flowing is fluent; hence fluency. The 
past tenses (L. fluxi, fluctus) are pre- 
served in flux, afflux, influx; also 
(fluctus used as a noun, wave, whence 
fluctuare, to undulate) fluctuation. By 
way of the noun flunten, river, comes 
the flume we use of a channel, as for 
bearing logs down hill to a stream. 
And we speak of the confluence (L. 
con, from com, together) of two 
streams. Influence first was a term in 
astrology, the forces determined by the 
flowing in of the stars ; so accident 
first meant the falling into place (acci- 

dere, present participle accident — , from 
ad, to -|- cadere, to fall; cp. cheat) of the 
stars — only unbelievers deemed it chancel 

Fluorescent light is indirectly from 
this source. It (and the element fluor- 
ine) are named from fluorspar. Spar, 
from OE. spaeren, gypsum, is the name 
of several types of stone; one variety 
helps lower the melting point of other 
substances, is used as a flux; hence 
this was named fluorspar, flow-stone. 
Then it was observed that this sub- 
stance, under certain conditions, began 
to glow ; therefore the glowing was 
named fluorescence ( — esce is the in- 
ceptive ending). Substances that con- 
tinue to glow after the initiating cause 
has stopped are called phosphorescent, 
not from any relation to phosphorus 
other than that it also glows (cp. focus). 
Grimm's Law (see Preface) shows us 
that Eng. flow, from OE. flQwan, is 
related, not to L. fluere, but to L. 
plorare, to weep. 

Spar is two other words, as well. A 
common Teut. word, ME. sparre, roof- 
rafter, gives us the nautical sense. 
The use in boxing is, from OE. spier- 
ran, to strike or thrust rapidly, 
(whence early Eng. spar, battle-ax), 
from OE. spere, from OHG. sper, 
whence Eng. spear. Spare and sparse 
are of different origin. The first is 
common Teut., from AS. spartan, from 
AS. spaer, from OHG. spar, frugal. 
Sparse is from L. spargere, spars — , 
to scatter. The odd noun sparable, the 
headless nail of the shoemaker, is named 
from its shape; the word is a corrup- 
tion of sparrow-bill. A chipper, if not 
affluent, bird. 


See affluent. 

See afraid. 

See effontcry. 


Punishment for breach of the peace 
must have been severe, since our word 
afraid comes from it. Affray (also 
shortened to fray; cp. down) is from 
OFr. esfreier, whence Fr. effrayer; it 
at first meant to threaten, to frighten, 
from LL. exfridare, from ex, out -|- 
OHG. frithu, peace. Then it meant a 
breaking of the peace. Cp fear. 

Fray, to rub is from OFr. frayer, 



from L. fricare, tu rub. Its frequenta- 
tive, fricasser, to tear, lingers in chicken 
fricasse, and (perhaps influenced by 
AS. frenge, fringe) to frazzle. The noun 
from fricare, L. frictio, friction — , 
shows us that rubbing is friction. 


5"^^ abaft. 


However difficult the study of math- 
ematics may be, this word does not 
derive from the feelings of a poor 
student after math. It is an after- 
moiving (AS. maeth, from mawan, to 
mow 4- th, a noun suffix), a gather- 
ing of hay for a Second time ; hence, 
any after-effects — especially • after a 
cutting down, as in battle. 

again, against. 

Like many seemingly simple words, 
these have had a complicated history. 
The word again had many early forms, 
most frequent being ayen, agen (which 
is still the common pronunciation) ; it 
is from on, in -+- gagn, gegn, direct, 
straight ahead (whence also gainly, un- 
gainly) ; hence opposite, meeting, coming 
to (repeating). The G. gegen means Eng. 
against, which was the early genitjve of 
again, agains, agens, with a / added as 
though it were a superlative — st : the 
same thing had happened to amidst and 
amongst. (Among is from AS. on ge- 
mang, in the crowd; cp. mongrel.) 
Against first meant directly opposite, over 
against, or in contact with, against the 
wall ; then opposed to. Against is some- 
times written 'gainst; as a prefix the 
root remains in Eng. gainsay, to speak 

Gain itself is a most roundabout word. 
We have it directly from Fr. gagner; 
this was OFr. gaaignier, from LL. gwad- 
aniare, borrowed in turn from the OHG. 
root weidinjin, to forage, from weida, 
pasture : from foraging, the sense shifted 
to obtaining that which one sought. If 
not, try again. 

See Appendix II. 


See camelian. 

agenda, agent. 
See add, exact. 


See clam. 



The L. gravis means heavy ; ad -|- 
gravare, to make heavy, • to load, to 
put a burden upon. Used figuratively, 
it means to add to one's burdens or 
troubles ; hence, to annoy one greatly. 
By way of OFr. agrever, the same L. 
word gives us aggrieve, to bear heavily 
upon, to offend. Grievance and griev- 
ous (full of grief) are from the same 
gravis; as are grieve and grief, heavi- 
ness of spirit ; popular L. having 
changed the gravare to grevare. Grava- 
men, the burden of one's charge, or 
accusation, is directly from a LL. noun, 
gravaynen. Directly from the classical 
L. adj. gravis is grave, in the sense of 
heavy, solemn, weighty, ponderous. 
(Ponderous, from L. ponderare, to 
weigh, from pondus, ponder — , weight, 
gives us also preponderance — prae, be- 
fore — outweighing ; and, taken figura- 
tively, to ponder, to weigh, to consider). 

Gravity (used both literally and fig- 
uratively), and gravitate, are also 
clearly from gravis. There are more 
exclusively scientific terms from this 
source : gravid, meaning heavy with 
child ; gravigrade, walking heavily (as 
the elephant and the megatherium) ; 
gravimeter ; gravitation. There are 
other origins and meanings of grave, 

Close to L. pondere is pendere, pen- 
sum; from its sense, to weigh (the 
value of) came the meaning, to pay, 
whence Eng. pension. But pendere 
means to hang; whence pendant; pro- 
pensity (L. pro, forward, toward: a 
leaning toward) ; pendulum (L. pendu- 
lus, hanging). The frequentative of 
pendere is pensare, to hang over, to 
dwell upon ; hence, to think, whence 
Eng. pensive, pansy. Dependent (lean- 
ing upon, hanging from), independent, 
independence, are also from this source. 
The man that truly thinks is likely 
to be independent. 


See absolute, caricature. 


See issue. 


See aggravate. 


See exact. 




St. Paul (Acts xvii,23) speaks of 
the altar to "the unknown God," (Gr. 
Agnosto Theo). In early Christian days, 
there was a sect, the Gnostics, that 
claimed mystic knowledge. Huxley, 
wishing to indicate inability to have 
such knowledge, in 1869 coined the 
word agnostic. The term lacks the 
obloquy attached to unbeliever — which 
is all that is left in miscreant (OFr. 
mescrcirc, to disbelieve). Obloquy is 
simply ob, against -f loqui, locutus, to 
speak ; this verb gives us several words, 
i.g., soliloquy, from solus, alone ; 
loquacious; elocution, speaking out, also 
eloquent; circumlocution (L. circum, 
around), of which the world has too 


from a, on -|- char, turn, from AS. 
cierran, to turn. Whence also charwotnan, 
one who has a "turn" to do; and 
chore. Charcoal (though perhaps in- 
fluenced by Fr. charbon, charcoal, from 
L. carbo-n — , whence Eng. carbon) is 
also wood turned coal ; the verb to 
char was formed from charcoal. Chari- 
vari, gay turning about, with music 
expressing disapproval (now shortened 
to a "raspberry," or a "Bronx cheer" ; 
cp. Dutch) is perhaps also a Fr. play 
on this meaning. See jar. 

See camp. 


See acumen ; cp. police. 


Pleasure rather than pain was the 
first intention of this word. From the 
Gr. agein, to lead, came the word 
ugon, that into which men are led, an 
assembly. It came to be applied es- 
pecially to the assemblies for watching 
the great Greek games, athletic and 
dramatic contests. (Many stories and 
plays have a hero and a villain, q.v.; 
but the great ones usually center the 
struggle within the soul of the main 
figure, the protagonist, from Gr. protos, 
first -j- agonistes, contender. A poem 
of Milton's is entitled "Samson Agon- 
istes.") Thus agonia came to mean the 
contest, the struggle; applied as well to 
mental and moral struggles, it was ex- 
tended to cover the physical and mental 
anguish one may have to endure. An 
antagonist is one against (Gr. anti, 
against) whom the struggle proceeds. 

The agonoclite was an unbending per- 
son, esp. a 7th c. heretic who prayed 
standing ; from Gi;;, a — not, -f- gont, knee, 
-f klitos, bent, from klinein, to bend ; cp. 
climate. From Gr. gone comes L. germ, 
knee, whence Eng. genuflection (L. flec- 
tere, flex — , to bend; cp. accent) 


See acorn, satinter. 


See acumen. 


See island. 


When is a door not a door? When 
it's ajar. Ajar is from AS. achar. 


See States. 

See element. 


Stemming from Gr. alabastr'os, ala- 
bastos, this substance is supposedly named 
from a town in Egypt. Used to make 
boxes for holding oils, it became the 
name of the box, then also a liquid meas- 

In 16th c. Eng., the word was some- 
times spelled alablaster, by confusion with 
alblaster, arbalester, arblaster. a cross- 
bowman, from arbalest, cross-bow. This 
word — spelled in a dozen ways — is from 
L. arcus, bow (whence Eng. arc, arch; 
but see arctic) + ballista, machine for 
hurling missiles, from Gr. ballein, to 
throw; cp. ballot. — Being delicately shad- 
ed,' and translucent, alabaster became fre- 
quently used in comparisons, of the fair 
cheeks of fair maidens. 


See alas. 


A frequent stage direction of Eliza- 
bethan plays calls for "alarums and ex- 
cursions," meaning the dashing about 
and contending of armed forces. Fr. 
a I'arme! (literally. To the arm!), To 
arms ! became in Eng. the word for the 
war cry or warning itself ; thence, for 
anything, such as a special clock, that 
sounds a warning. The It. form, all' 
arme!, with the same meaning, was in 
the 17th c. mistaken for the command: 
All arm! As is often the case, the 




use of the word has been extended to 
include the emotion felt upon hearing 
a danger signal, the alarm or vague 
fear as at the approach of danger. 


This exclamation of woe (Ah! woe 
is me) is a combination of an English 
sigh and a Roman fatigue : a/i -f- L. las- 
sum, weary, hence wretched ; Eng. lassi- 
tude; cp. last, let. The poetic cry "Alack 
and alas.'" draws the first word from ah + 
lack, defect, fault, shame ; it was used as 
a term of reproach. Frequently used in 
the phrase alack the day, shame to the 
day (on which you were born?!!!), 
alack-a-day, the sort of person it was 
applied to came to be called lackadaisical. 
As the pallid poet sputtered: "A lass? 
Alas! A lassitude had crept upon me!" 
(The origin of lass is unknown, as are 
also the sources of lad, girl, q.v., and boy; 
but this does not account for the story of 
the stork). 


See States. 


This high-flying bird has given its 
name to a famous prison ; it is from 
Port, alcatraz. The first part of the 
name is changed as though from L. 
alba, white. The name is a nickname, 
and was originally applied to the peli- 
can, which was supposed to carry water 
for its young in its beak : from Arab. 
al-qadus, the water carrier. 


See auburn. 


See auburn. Albion is also supposed 
to be of Irish origin. 

album, albumen. 

See auburn. 

See albatross. 


See chemistry. 


When a happy drinker refers to his 
liquor as "eye wash," he little knows 
how exact his expression falls. Alcohol 
is from Arab, al, the + koh'l (Heb. 
kakhal, to stain, paint), a fine black 
powder (collyrium) for painting the 

eyelids. The word kohl is still used in 
this sense. 

Applied later to any fine powder, 
the word alcohol was then used also 
of liquids extracted, distilled or "recti- 
fied" — that is, the spirit or quintessence 
of a substance. Since the most com- 
mon of these was spirit of wine, the 
term came to be applied to the spiritu- 
ous or intoxicating element in any 

In 1834 Dumas and Peligot, in 
France, demonstrated the relation of 
spirit of wine with "wood-spirit" (wood 
alcohol, methyl alcohol, CH3) ; and the 
term came into its chemical use in- 
dicating a large group of related sub- 
stances (CH3; C2H5; C3H7 ; etc. 
CH4; C2H6; C3H8 ; etc.) not all of 
which are liquid. 

Intertangled in part of its history 
with the word alcohol is L. collyrium, 
from Gr. kollyrion, poultice, eye-salve, 
from diminutive of Gr. kollyra, a roll of 
coarse bread. (Country folk still make 
a little ball of the inside dough of a 
roll, to lay on a sore eye.) Ben Jonson 
(in The Fortunate Isles, 1624) uses 
collyrium for alcohol, as a coloring for 
the eyelids ; this use persists to the end 
of the 19th century. And truly alcohol 
has colored many an eye ! 

There is, of course, no connection be- 
tween this kohl and kohl-rabi, which (via 
G. kohl-rabi) is from It. cavoli rape, 
cabbage-turnip. Cabbage is via Fr. cab- 
oche, big-head, chump, from It. capoc- 
chia, augmentative of It. capo, head, 
from L. caput; cp. ctchieve. This rape 
(for the ravishing, see rapture) is from 
L. rapium, turnip. See turnip. 

Eng. cole (kohl; Scots kale, kail, as 
in the song about the "bonnie briar bush 
in our kail yard") is from AS. cawel, 
akin to L. caulis, Gr. kaulos, stSlk. The 
familiar cole slaw (slaugh) is a United 
States shortening of cole salade. Salad 
comes via Fr. salade from a LL. form 
salata, salted, from salare, to salt, from 
L. sal, salt; cp. salary. It's still the 
same chopped cabbage I 

See world. 


See drink. 


Those that on hills or in high build- 
ings watch for enemy planes are 
etymologically, as well as actually. 




alert. OFr. d I'erte, from It. all'erta, 
alia erta, to the height, is from the L. 
erectus, from erigere, to set up, to 
build, as a watch tower, from e, out 
-\- regere, to rule, to make straight. 
(From this verb come erect, erection; 
by another path, regal, regent; royal, 
q.v.) It is easy to imagine how "on 
the watching place" came to mean "on 
the watch," vigilant ; then lively, quick 
in action. Since the word itself con- 
tains the words on the watch, the ex- 
pression "on the alert" is pleonastic. 

In Fr. today, alerte means a military 
call ; this sense has been borrowed to 
designate the signal for an air raid 
drill, or the drill itself. "Eternal vigi- 
lance is the price of liberty." Vigil is 
from another L. word, vigil, meaning 
watchful, alert; it is cognate with 
vigere, to thrive, from which we have 
vigor and vigorous. Vigia is a nautical 
term, from Sp. or Port. : a warning, 
on a sea chart, of a hidden danger. — 
A person who is on the alert is likely 
to be vigorous, and to thrive. 

See Appendix II. 

al fresco. 

See fresco. 


Every high school lad knows this word ; 
but few persons know that its first use 
in Eng. was in the sense of setting bones. 
It is from Arab, al-jebr, the reuniting, 
from Arab, jabara, to reunite. In the 
16th c, when the word was used for a 
field of mathematics, writers thought that 
it came from Arab, al, the -|- Geber, the 
name of an Arabian chemist; it has no 
connection either with him or with gib- 
ber. The mathematical use is a shorten- 
ing of the Arab, phrase ilm al-jebr wa'l- 
muqabalah, the science of reuniting and 
equating. In the middle ages, some 
writers used the last word, some used the 
first ; in It. it became algebra, which has 
survived in Eng. 

Those that think algebra difficult should 
note the remark in Blackwood's Maga- 
zine (1841) : "When a child throws out 
his five fingers, he has algebraized before 
he can speak." 

The standard Arab, work in the field 
was the Algebra of Abu Ja'far Moham- 
med Ben Musa, through which 9th c. 
study the use of Arabic numerals re- 
placed the Roman, and made calculation 
less cumbersome. Hence calculation 

{arithmetic) was named in honor of this 
mathematician : from his native town of 
Khiva, Kharazm, he was known as al- 
Khowarazmi, which came into Eng. in 18 
different forms, but finally crystallized as 
algorism, the technical term for arith- 
metic. Arithmetic (mistakenly called aris- 
metrik in the Renaissance, as though from 
L. ars metrica, the art of measure) is 
from Gr. arithmetike, counting, from arith- 
meein, to number. Geometry is from Gr. 
geo, earth, -f- metron, measure. For cal- 
culus, see calculate. Mathematics has 
been called the mother of the sciences as 
Memory (cp. amnesty) is the mother of 
the arts. See mathematics, as some school- 
boys never can. 

See algebra. 

alias, alibi. 

"Alias Jimmy Valentine" and "Alibi 
Ike" contain two Latin words. Alias, 
otherwise; alibi, (from ali-ubi) other- 
where. An alibi consists in showing that 
you were elsewhere, when a crime was 
committed somewhere. 

Alice blue. 

See Appendix II. 

aliment, alimentary, alimentive. 
See alimony; world. 


The L. alere, to nourish, produced 
the L. nouns alimentum, (LL.) alimen- 
tatio, and alimonium. All meant that 
which nourishes or sustains. From the 
first two we derive the alimentary 
canal, and alimentation. Phrenologists 
speak of atimentiveness, the animal urge 
to seek food. From the third form 
comes alimony, which from its legal 
use has become limited to sustenance, 
or money for sustenance, allotted when 
a married couple is separated. Cp. 


Not many words have been invented in 
recent years. Among them are gas, q.v., 
and some trade names such as kodak 
(about 1890). Combinations are of course 
frequent, to express new substances or 
articles : cellophane, phonograph, etc. ; 
cp. Dora. But in earlier times writers 
were freer with their fancies. Thus 
Paracelsus, out of the Arab, prefix al, 
the, built the word alkahest to mean the 
universal solvent the alchemists were seek- 



ing. The last syllable may have been sug- 
gested by the common Teut. form, ME. 
heste (from haitan, to call by name, to 
summon; whence Eng. hight), a sum- 
mons, a command to appear. (The al- 
chemists certainly sought it ardently 
enough!) This word lingers in Eng. in 
the expression at your behest. 


For acid, see acetylene. Litmus may 
have been a lichen used for dyeing, from 
ON. litr, color, -f mosi, moss ; but see 
litmus. (Moss is common Teut., related 
to L. muscus, moss; AS. mas. meant bog, 
whc« the moss grew. Also see peat.) 
The ashes of the saltwort plant were 
early used to produce alkali; it owes its 
name to the process: Arab, ol-qaliy. the 
ashes, from qalay, to fry. 

See element : potassium. 

See alone. 

allay, allege, allegiance, alliance. 

See legible; c/>. alligator. 

See amphigory. 


The shape and size of a lizard sug- 

fested an arm to the Romans ; hence 
,. lacertus, upper arm, also was used 
for lizard. The Spanish took this to 
the New World, Sp. al lagarto, the 
lizard; whence Eng. alligator. This was 
also spelled alligarter, even allegater — 
whence the remark "I deny the allega- 
tion and defy the allegater." Allegation 
is from L. allegare, allegat — , to de- 
clare on oath, from L. al, frorti ad, to 
+ lex, leg — , law; via OFr. alegier 
this gives us allege; cp. legible. 

See couch, permit. 

See permit. 


See legible ; cp. alligator. 

See lotion. 

See legible. 

alma mater. 
See volume. 



This word, first used in the 13th c. 
by Roger Bacon, seems to have come 
from the Sp., and the Arab, al, the 
-|- manakh; but there is no such word 
in Arab. It has also been suggested 
that it is from the AS. al-mon-aght, 
all moon heed : from the records of 
the new and the full moon kept by the 
Saxons. AS. mono, moon, Goth, mena, 
are cognate with Gr. mene. Similarly 
month, the period of the moon, Goth. 
menoths, is cognate with L. mensis, Gr. 
mene; Sansk. masa. 


The name of this kernel of the drupe 
of the almond tree . is roundabout : L. 
amanduta, from amygdale, Gr. amygdale. 
The al is probably from confusion with 
many words from the Arab, beginning 
with al, the. Similarly misunderstanding 
produced the Jordan almond, which has 
no relation to the Biblical Jordan, but 
comes from Fr. jardin, garden : the 
cultivated as opposed to the wild-grow- 
ing variety. 


See alms. 


This word has been curiously cor- 
rupted. An almoner, distributor of 
charity, is, from OFr. almosnier, which 
shows the halfway stage, from L. from 
Gr. eleemosynia, alms, from Gr. eleein, 
to pity. From Church Latin, AS. bor- 
rowed the word as aelmaesse, of three 
syllables ; this was further shortened 
to two syllables, as almes; then to 
alms. Later, the original word gave us 
the Eng. eleemosynary, as offered by 


If you say "It's all one to me!" Vou 
mean "Jt makes no difference!" — which 
is tiie same thine;. But when you are 
alone you are likewise all one : alone 
is, from all -\- one, meaning all by 
one's self. Aphetic from this is lone; 
whence lonely. The suffix — ly is 
from AS. lie, like, which first meant 
image, body. Thus lonely means that 
everything is all like one: just yourself. 
Only is, similarly, from AS. anlic, one 
like : there's but one like it. Hidden in 
such is the same ending, from earlier 
swich, from swilch, from AS. swalic, 
like so. This is a common Teut. form, 
AS. swa, so; Goth, swa; G. so. AS. 



eall-swa, all so, became also; this (G. 
also; als) shortened into as. Now you 
may feel not so lonely! 


This word, from the Du. phrase to 
loef, to windward, is the same as luff. 
Originally it meant a device for chang- 
ing a ship's course (OHG. laffa, oar- 
blade) ; then, bringing the head of the 
ship toward the wind. Thus one that 
holds himself aloof does not sail with 
the wind, but beats against the course. 


See gamut. 

One way of saying "from beginning to 
end" (English style, from soup to nuts) 
is from alpha to omega, these being the 
first and last letters of the Greek alpha- 
bet. This alphabet has the letter o twice : 
omega (big O; same prefix in mega- 
phone) and omicron (little o; thus micro- 


See alone. 


Pious persons spoke of raising an altar 
unto the Lord; Milton says (Paradise 
Lost, xi, 323), "So many grateful altars 
I would rear." The center of worship 
was thus a place uplifted toward the 
heavens — as the word tells us, when we 
read to its past, from L. altare, from 
altus, high. See ivorld. 

alter, altitude, alumnus. 
See world. 


The Fr. expression, le bien d'autrui, the 
right of another, was shortened in legal 
phrase to I'autrui. The philosopher Comte 
took this shorter term (possibly from the 
It. form altrui, from L. alteri, to an- 
other) and coined the noun altruisme — 
translated into Eng. as altruism. Comte 
opposed it to egoism, from L. ego, I. 
Egoism is the general philosophical point 
of view; egotism (the same word, with 
the t added to separate the vowels) has 
come to be used for a more personal 
selfishness, a conceit, a too frequent using 
of the word I. "Ay, ay, sir!" — ^with the 
same sound, meaning yes — may be an- 
other spelling of the pronoun I, as though 
one were answering a roll-call with an 
affirmative vote ; it is sometimes spelled 
aye. On the other hand, aye, ever, is 
sometimes spelled ay; and the meaning 
yes may be from ever, used as an in- 


tensive "O.K." The aye, ever, is common 
Teut., AS. a, cognate with L. aevum, 
age. There is also a Madagascar animal 
aye-aye, named from its call. 

alum, aluminum. 

See element. 


This word seems to be an amalgam of 
various sources. At least, three origins 
and a fourth route are suggested for it. 
It may be a medieval perversion of Gr. 
malagma, used by the doctors (Pliny) as 
a soothing plaster, from malak, stem of 
malassein, to soften (which might have 
influenced molasses, from LL. mellaceum, 
from mell — , honey. Eng. mellifluous is 
from L. mell- -\- fluere, to flow. This 
honey has probably altered the sense of 
mellow, from ME. melwe, ripe, related 
to AS. melo, meal, flour). Or this word 
may have journeyed into the Arabic, got- 
ten an al, the, prefixed to it (c/>. alcohol; 
chemistry), and returned as amalgam. 
Possibly it is directly from an Arab, 
word, al-jamsa, union, from jamasa, to 
unite. And who knows but that it is 
formed from Gr. ama, together, -f- gamos, 
marriage — whence gamete; cp. monk! 
The last thought, indeed, produced the 
rare noun amalgamy. 

amateur, amatory. 
See amethyst, ham. 


These warrior women of old were 
supposedly called Amazons because they 
cut off their right breasts, not to im- 
pede the drawing of the bow : Gr. 
amazon, from a, not, without -f- mazos, 
breast. This is in all probability a Gr. 
corruption, to make the word fit an 
apparent meaning, of the eastern moon- 
god Mazu, the moon being sacred to 
virgins. There is also a legend of a 
northern tribe of Amazons; this may 
have grown from the race of Qvoens 
(the Finns so called themselves), mis- 
taken for queans or Swed. Quinns, 


See strategy. 


This word, of one who frequents an 
embassy, is as devious as often the am- 
bassador's dealings. It is traced to a 
LL. ambaxiata, auibasciata, from a sup- 
posed verb ambactiare, to go on a mission. 
Beyond this, the lines diverge, though 




most of them go, via L. ambactus, serv- 
ant, back into the Teut. or the Celt. 
Caesar (in the Gallic War, vi. 15) ap- 
plies ambactus to the. retainers of the 
Gallic chief ; thus it is perhaps from 
OHG. ambaht, from and, towards, -f- bak, 
back (going and coming) or from and, 
towards + Sansk. bkahta, devoted. From 
the L., it may be atnbo, about, to and 
fro, -f actiare, a LL. frequentative from 
act — ; agere, act — , to drive, to do. There 
are dozens of spellings of the words, 
embassador, imbassator, and the like; in 
any case, he is an ambassador extra- 

amber, ambergris. 

See electricity. 

See dexterity. 


When a sentence or an action makes 
you wonder, as though it were driving 
your mind in two directions, it is indeed 
ambiguous (L. ambi, around, on both 
sides -|- iguus, from agere, to drive -|- 
— ous, L. — osus, full of). L. ambi is 
cogn. with Gr. amphi, as in amphi- 
theatre, one with seats all around ; and 
amphisbaena (cp. bane, murder, evil), a 
snake with a head at each end. Such 
a snake, of course, lives only in myth- 
ology and inebriate fancies. 


From the Roman habit of going 
about (ambo, about, on both sides -}- 
it — : eo, ire, itus, go) to solicit votes. 
Thus an ambitious man is truly a "go- 


See ambulance. 


This was the food, as nectar was the 
drink, of the Greek and Roman gods. 
Some say ambrosia was the drink and 
nectar the food ; but it makes little 
difference; both were a joy to the 
palate, and both conferred immortality : 
ambrosia, from Gr. a, not + brotos, 
mortal ; nectar, from Gr. nek, death 
(thus necropolis; cp. police) -\- — tar, 
conquering. From its pleasant taste 
comes the nectarine peach, later just 

Gr. brotos is for mbrotos, from mrotos 
by metathesis from mortos, whence Eng. 


mortal and immortality. The root is 
♦"or — , to die, as in L. mors, mort — . 

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. 

It is sweet and fitting to die for one's 


The early field hospital, for treat- 
ment of the wounded right in the 
battlefield, was called by the French 
hospital ambulant, walking hospital. 
From this, the noun ambulance was 
formed. World War II has produced 
the ambucycle, a sort of motorcycle 
ambulance. The L. ambulare, to walk, 
also gives us the adj. ambulatory, and 
the verb amble. With the prefix per, 
through, we have perambulate, to walk 
through (to inspect) ; then, to walk 
around. A perambulator was a person 
that walked about; then, a device for 
measuring the distance one walks, a 
"way wiser"— what we today call a 
pedometer, or "foot measure", cp. peda- 
gogue; then, the carriage for a baby 
pushed before one as one walks around 
(this is often shortened, esp. in England, 
to pram). See hospital. 

From the OFr. ambler, to go, came 
Fr. aller, allee, which gives us Eng. 
alley. (The marble, alley, is short for 
alabaster, from Gr. alabastros, from the 
eastern word for the stone.) To sally 
forth, however, is not aphetic for L. 
ex -{-aller, but from Fr. saillir, .mille, 
to rush, from L. salire, saltus, to leap, 
as in insult and somersault, qq.v. Many 
a leap leads to an ambulance. 


See ambulance. 

ambuscade, ambush. 

See strategy. 


Despite the suggestion of a relation 
to the god Ammon, amen comes with- 
out change from the Heb., in which 
language it means certainty, truth. 
"Thus it is" was said when the thought 
was (at the end of a prayer) "Thus 
may it be." More profanely one might 
remark today, "Ain't it the truth!" 

amenable, amenity. 
5"^^ mean. 

See Appendix II. 




See homo — . 


This word was spelled amatist in the 
16th c, as though it were the lovers' 
stone L. amor, love ; amare, amat — , to 
love; whence amatory; amorous: -ous 
from osus, full of. The root am — is prob- 
ably exclamatory in origin : baby-talk, like 
yum-yum, and the mmm! expressive of 
delight. Hence the one that works in love 
(the non-professional), the amateur. But 
earlier it was looked upon as a charm 
against drunkenness, thus was called by 
the Greeks amethystos, from o, not, -f 
methystos, drunken, from methyskein, to 
intoxicate, from methy, wine. Methyl, as 
used in Eng., alone and as a prefix, is a 
back-formation from methylene, from 
Gr. methy -\- hyle, matter, wood — whence 
Eng. hylic, and many words with the 
prefix hylo — , as hylobate, woodwalker, 
hylophagous, hylotheism. Cp. rarnelian. 

amicable, amical. 

See remnant. 


Satires on medieval practices assert 
that even the excrement of saints was 
prized as a relic. But sal ammoniac, 
L. for salt of Ammon, is thus named 
because the substance was prepared from 
the dung of the camels near the temple 
of Jupiter Ammon — worshiped in Egypt 
as Amun. The gas obtained from this 
salt was later named ammonia (NH3). 
There may be some relation between 
the god and Gr. ammos, sand. The 
Romans were religiously hospitable, ad- 
mitting to their pantheon gods of all 
the peoples they conquered. Cp. vitamin. 

See avalanche. 


See amnesty. 


A kind conqueror said he would for- 
get the deeds of his enemies, and 
granted amnesty, (Gr. amnestia, oblivion, 
from a — , not -|- mnasthai, remember. 
Less grateful from the same root is 
avmesia). The adj. from the Gr. verb 
is mnemon, vmemonikos, whence Eng. 
mnemonic. The mother of the Muses 
was the goddess Mnemosyne, memory ; 
in which connection we might note 
that both to the sages of India and to 

the wise men of Greece, wisdom is 
recollection. Thus today, after a quar- 
rel, persons say "Let's forget it !" 


See berserk. 


See mongrel. 


See again. 


See amethyst. 

This is not related to amoral, which is 
Gr. a — , not -|- moral; cp. remorse. 


See remorse. 

See moron ; Appendix II. 


When children were given the alphabet 
to copy, after the 2 was put the symbol 
& ; this was called "and per se, and" : 
and by itself, and. Corrupted at first into 
ampussy and, it survived as ampersand, 
the name of the sign. 

amphigory, amphigoury. 

This hodge-podge of rigamarole (q.v.) 
or double-talk is double in its very name : 
from Gr. amphi, both, around, + agoria, 
speech (as in paregoric, q.v. and cate- 
gory; cp. verdict), or from amphi, around 
-\- gyros, circle; whence gyrate, autogyro 
(L. auto, by itself, as in automobile and 
many other forms, autocrat, cp. democ- 
racy). Allegory, a more sensible form 
of double-talk, is from Gr. alios, other + 
agoria : one story with another hidden 
inside. Cp. ambiguous; L. ambi is from 
Gr. amphi. 

Hodge-podge is from earlier hotch- 
potch, from Fr. hocher, to shake; cp. 

See ambiguous. 

See defeat. 

See curfew. 


See berserk. 




Especially about the necks of pretty 
babies, mothers hung amulets, to fright- 
en away evil spirits. In the middle 
ages, infant mortality was much greater 
than now ; the amulet was a charm, 
from L. amuletum, from amolire letum, 
to turn away death. An even older and 
more universal symbol is the swastika; 
cp. monk. 


The Muses were daughters of memory, 
q.v. To muse, however, now meaning 
to ponder, was first to stare (fixed gaze 
might be a sign of deep thought). The 
word is related to muzzle (keeping the 
head in a fixed position), which is OFr. 
musel, a diminutive of OFr. muse, per- 
haps from L. morsus, bite. 

To amuse was, first, to cause to stare, 
to amaze. The sense gradually weakened : 
to hold the attention ; then, to divert the 
attention (used thus, of miliary opera- 
tions, to hide one's real intention ; Marshal 
Saxe, mid 18th c, invented a light can- 
non called an amuse tte) ; then, to divert 
from any serious purpose, which is its 
present meaning. Queen Victoria (on 
receiving, as she had requested, the other 
books by the author of Alice In Wonder- 
land) might have remarked: "The Queen 
is not amused," as she often did when 
her sense of decorum was disturbed. 

See number. 

ana, — ana. 

See psychoanalysis. 


Sec anacampserote. 


Xenoplion wrote the Anabasis (379- 
371 B.C.) picturing the advance of Cyrus 
the Younger into .-Xsia in 401-400 B.C.; 
the word has come to be applied to any 
military expedition of consequence; ana- 
basis means to step forward, "the up- 
country march," from Gr. ana -{■ basis, 
step; sec bazooka. The prefix ana means 
again, over, back, and up ; cp. psycho- 
analysis. .\\\ anabaptist is one that be- 
lic\ es in baptizing more than once : Gr. 
baptcin. to dii). An anachronism is some- 
thing backwards in time (or out of time) : 
an error such as tiic clock in Shakes- 
peare's Julius Caesar. There is a word, 
once applied to an herb, now obsolete, 
that some would like restored to the 


language : anacampserote : Gr. ana, again, 
-|- campscrota from camptein. to bend, -f- 
eros, erot — , love (whence also Eng. 
erotic) : that which brings back departed 

See anacampserote. 


Things apprehended through the senses 
were to the Greeks aisthcta, from the 
stem aisthe—, to feel ; they were opposed 
to noeta, things thought, from noein, to 
perceive, from nous, mind. Eng. noetic 
and nous are philosophical words ; but 
aesthetics has become (from its use by 
Baumgarten, 1750) the name for the gen- 
eral field of thinking about the arts — 
taken in through the senses, the "feel- 
ings"; and anaesthetic has become the 
term used in medicine for removing the 
senses (in local anaesthesia, only the feel- 
ing of the spot concerned). 

anagram, analysis. 

See psychoanalysis. 


See Appetulix II. 


See helicopter. 


See annihilate. 


This word has come to mean its 
opposite. The Gr. anathema, from ana, 
up -f- tithenai, to set, was applied to 
something set aside as an offering to 
a god. It was devoted to the god;' 
but since such things were usually to 
be sacrificed, the word came to mean 
doomed, accursed, and is used in that 
sense esp. by the Catholic Church. 
Note that in L. consecrare, consecrat — , 
from con, from com, together -(- sacer, 
holy, is a synonym of desecrare, dese- 
crat — , from de, down, -f- sacer. In 
Eng. consecrate has kept the original 
sense of making holy, while desecrate 
has, like anathema, taken the opposite 
meaning. The expression anathema 
maranatha (Syr. maran etha: Let him 
be devoted; the Lord has come) is 
sometimes used as a very solenm curse. 


The only way to discover the anatomy 
of a body is to cut it up. This the 



word itself tells us, from Gr. ana, up, 
back, again + to*ne, cutting, from 
temnein, to cut. Before electrons were 
suggested, the accepted theory of matter 
was atomic, the atom (Gr. a — , not -f- 
tome, cutting) being the smallest, in- 
divisible particle, which could not be cut. 
(The term is still employed, as we 
still speak of the sunrise and simset.) 
The ending — tomy (also —totne; and, 
from modem L., — tomia) is used in 
medicine to indicate a cutting instru- 
ment or operation. Thus appendectomy. 
There are eight spellings for removing 
the tonsils: tonsillectome, tonsillectomy, 
tonsillotome, tonsillotomy (double these 
by undoubling the /). The operation 
is not that complex. A "cutting" of 
the essence of something (Gr. epi, close 
upon) is an epitome. And a section 
(cp. set) of a book, bound separately, 
is a tome. 


If something moves when you push it, 
you may say that it yields, hence L. cedere, 
cess — , to move, soon took the sense of to 
yield; whence Eng. cede. To move back 
is of course to recede; to move apart, 
secede; to move between (two quarrel- 
ers), to intercede; to move along with 
(another's will), to concede (L. con, com, 
with). To move under some one was L. 
subcedere, whence succedere, whence Eng. 
succeed, which first meant to come after 
— therefore, to replace, to win. From the 
past participle forms come success and 
recess (moved back ; hence a space, hence 
an interval). The frequentative of ce- 
dere, cess — , to yield, was cessare, ces- 
sat — , to slop ; whence Eng. cessation 
and, via. Fr. cesser, Eng. cease. 

One who has come before is an ante- 
cessor (in L.) ; whence early Eng. an- 
cessour, then via Fr. ancestre, Eng. an- 
cestor. From the present participle comes 
Eng. antecedent. 

To be abte to move toward something 
is to have access to it (L. ad, toward, 
-I- cedere, cess — ) ; also Eng. accede. The 
verb from the L. to move away has not 
continued in Eng. (L. ab, abs, awav, -|- 
ccdere) but the little hollow where flesh 
has moved away and pus forms is an 

The process is the way of proceeding; 
the movement forward {pro, forward) 
may be in a processional; and the formal 
march out of an assembly is the reces- 
sional. The deceased is the one that has 
moved away — a euphemism, in the L., 


for the dead one . . . who has joined his 

(In general, the Eng. forms spelled 
-cede came early from the L. ; those 
spelled -ceed came via the Fr. For 
— sede, see subside.) 

anchor, anchorite. 
See monk. 

See ancestor ; cp. hold. 

See banshee. 


Originally (Gr. an, negative prefix 
-+- ekdidonai, to give out : ex, out -|-, 
don, give, as in donation) anecdotes 
were things kept secret, unpublished 
details of history. Since, however, these 
are precisely what most persons want 
to know, the meaning was soon changed 
to its present one, an interesting in- 

See plant. 

See evangelist. 


See monk. 


Merry England, of course, is Angle- 
land; but here agreement ends. We 
were long taught that the Angles came 
from Aiiglia (AS. Angui ; ON. Ongull, 
a hook-shaped section of Holstein, (jer- 
many ; the word itself — cp. monk — 
meaning hook). Saxon is from a tribe 
that inhabited Saxony] Germany, near 
the mouth of the Elbe; the word is 
OE. Seaxan, from AS. seax, ax. All 
this may be so; but more than Gtr- 
manophobes point out that when the 
Teutons came to the British Islands, 
they found the Gaels (Celts) already 
there, and they used the Cdtic term 
for them, an-gael, the Gael; whence 
the name of the land and the language. 

We look from still another angle in 
music, being told that the English horn 
is a mistranslation from the French, 
for bent horn; Fr. Anglais, English, 
is pronounced like Fr. angli, bent For 
another such error, see bnc;le (slug- 
horii). Yet if we have a French hmn 
in English, why not an English horn in 
French? This may be folk etymology! 




See hangnail. 

See conversion. 

animal, animosity, animus. 
See plant; cp. totem. 


See pylorus. 


See anniversary. 

See nexus. 

Annie Oakley. 
See Appendix II. 


A child's frequent daydream gives 
him power to puff, and make his foes 
vanish, to wipe them away. This desire 
is caught in the word annihilate, from 
L. an, from ad, to + nihil, nothing: 
to turn into nothing. A nihilist is one 
that believes in no basic principles; spe- 
cifically, the Nihilists were Russian 
revolutionaries in the 19th c. An anar- 
chist is one that believes in no rulers, 
from Gr. an, not + archos, chief, from 
archein, to rule. Hence arch — , the 
prefix. Which brings us also to nil, a 
contraction of L. nihil, hence less than 


The early church kept careful .records, 
as the years rolled round, of the days 
of importance in its faith. These were 
the anniversaria (L. annus, year + 
vertcre, vers — , turn) dies, days that 
had to be observed with especial cere- 
mony. Since marriages were made in 
heaven, and birthdays were of great 
importance to noble families, the anni- 
versaries of these occasions were also 
celebrated, as the years turned on and 

The first half of this word is used 
to form many Eng. words, e.g. semi- 
annual, every half year; annual, yearly; 
biennial, every tv/o years; perennial, 
through the years; sesquicentennial (L. 
sesqui, from semis, half -j- que, and: 
a half in addition -\- cent — , one hun- 
dred) every hundred and fifty years, 
or the one hundred and fiftieth armi- 
versary. Annals are events recorded 
year by year, or the records themselves. 


When we say that this is the year 1943 
A. D. we are repeating ourselves, for 
A. D. represents L. anno Domini, in 
the year of the Lord, according to the 
Christian calendar. (For Domini, see 
dome. ) 

The second part of the word anni- 
versary gives us even more Eng. words, 
for which see conversion. 

We hope, however, than an annuity is 
not annulled (L. annullare, to reduce to 
naught, from ad, to, + nullus, none; 
whence Eng. null and void; cp. annihi- 
late). Annular is from L. annulus. di- 
minutive of anus, ring. 


When a Roman was disturbed by 
something, he might use the phrase in 
odio habui, I have it in hatred. There 
were a few such idioms, beginning 
in odio (whence Eng. odious, odium). 
The two words in odio were combined 
in OFr. as anoi. This was brought into 
Eng. in several forms : noi (whence 
noisome), anoien, anuien; it went into 
later Fr. as anuier, enuier, whence Fr. 
and Eng. ennui; also, from anoien, Eng. 
annoy. Notice that the cause and effect 
have been transposed: I hate it; it 
annoys me. 


See anniversary. 

See lotion. 


See homo — . 


See pseudo — . 


This is a mild word now ; it once 
pictured a much stronger situation. It 
is, from ME. andswerien, from AS. 
andswerian, to swear in opposition to: 
and, against (cognate with Gr. anti, 
against) -|- swerian, to swear. The root 
of this word is swar, whence Saifsk. 
svri, to sound, svara, voice, whence L. 
susurrus, whisper; Eng. swarm, that 
which hums. Hence also the song the 
sirens sang : siren, from L., from Gr. 
seiren : seir — , sur — , from root swar, 
to sound. Gr. seira is also a cord ; and 
there is a symbol in the fact that the 
siren song tugged at the hearts of the 




This little fellow was earlier called an 
emmet, properly. For the word, AS. 
aemette, is related to o — , off + ON. 
meita, to cut, from his nippers. 

One's aunt is a survival of baby-talk, 
by way of OFr. ante (reduplicated in Fr. 
tante) from L. amita, from the mouths 
of infants. 

ant — . 

See ante — . 

See giant. 

See agony. 

See arctic. 

ante — . 

This Eng. combining form is from L. 
ante., before. It occurs separately in ante 
meridiem, before midday, as 9 a.m. Also 
is such words as antecedent; cp. ancestor. 

The combining form anti — , against, 
occurs as ant — before a vowel ; thus 
antarctic, cp. arctic; antichrist; antipathy, 
cp. osseous; antipodes, cp. pedagogue. 

Antediluvian is a late coinage (17th c.) 
from L. ante + diluvium, flood, from L. 
diluere, to wash away, from de, away, 
+ lucre, to loose, whence Eng. lues, med- 
ical word for a flow or discharge; also 
from L. diluvium via Fr. deluge comes 
Eng. deluge. 

Antepast, now more often (directly 
from It.) antipasto, is a bite before the 
meal, from ante -j- pascere, past — , to 
feed ; cp. congress. 


See giant. 

See ancestor. 


See ante — . 


See penult. 


There is a group of Eng. words from 
Gr. anthos, flower, antheros, flowery. 
Thus Eng. anther; chrysanthemum (Gr. 
chrysos, gold) ; anthology, cp. Athens ; 
anthemy. But anthem comes from Gr. 
antiphona. reply, from anti, against + 
phone, sound. This gives us, directly. 


Eng. antiphon; and via OE. antefne, an- 
tevne, antemne. antemn it became the 
national anthem. 


See rosary ; Athens. 

anthracite, anthrax. 

See uncle. 

anthropoid, anthropologfy, 
See sarcophagus ; cp. philander. 

anti — . 

See ante — . 


See surrender. 


When young folks cut capers (q.v.) 
we may say their antics are amusing. 
Such antic behavior is of ancient lineage; 
the word was first applied to fantastic 
designs and figures unearthed in Rome. 
These were antique (L. antiquus, from 
early anticus; Fr. antique; It. antico), 
but they were also ludicrous ; hence the 
present meaning of antic. There has 
been a similar transformation of grotes- 
que, q.v. 

Ancient, earlier Eng. auncien, is via 
OFr. ancien from LL. antianus, adjective 
formed, as was anticus, from ante, before. 


See dote. 


From Macassar (native Mangkasara), 
a district on the eastern island of 
Celebes, came the ingredients of a 
hair-oil, known by that name, which 
your grandfathers used when they were 
gay young blades. And your grand- 
mother's mother, to keep the stain off 
her good chairs, put over the back of 
them the daintily laced pieces you still 
call anti- (L. anti, against) inacassars. 
The unguents of our day are somewhat 
less staining . . . thougli we still need 
a good anti-lipstick. 


See element, pretzel. 


See ante — . 


See osseous. 



See anthem. 


See pedagogue. 


See antics. 


See creosote. 


See intoxicate. 


The stag at eve, dipping to drink his 
fill, has his lower antler before his eyes. 
To the Romans, this was the ramum ante 
ocularis, the branch before the eyes: the 
ante ocular — fused in OFr. to antoillier, 
whence early Eng. antolier, auntclere, and 
finally antler. When the word came to be 
applied the any of the branches of the 
horn, the low one was called the brow- 


Tlie shield of this city bears two 
hands, couped (cut off). The giant 
Antigonous, living there, cut off the 
right hands of passers-by who could 
not pay the toll, and tossed them into 
the river : Antwerp, from Flem. handt, 
hand + werpen, throwing. This is the 
story built to explain the name, and 
woven into the city's coat of arms. 
Actually, Antwerp is the city that grew 
up at the wharf, from Du. aan, at + 
werf, wharf. 

See anniversary. 


This word prefixes Gr. a-, not, to Gr. 
pathe, from pathos, suffering; cp. osseous. 
Perhaps its sound helped give bathos its 
sense, as the opposite of pathos (bathetic 
vs. pathetic), as the ludricrous ; it was 
first thus used by Alexander Pope, as 
a descent from the sublime to the ridicu- 
lous. The word is Gr. bathos, depth; not 
related to Eng. bath or bathe, which 
takes place in shallow water; these are 
common Teut. (The Order of the Bath, 
founded 1399, was thus named because 
the knights took a bath before the cere- 
mony, apparently an unusual procedure 
in early days. See garter.) The word has 
kept its scientific sense in Eng. in such 
compounds as bathysphere, a diving bell, 


and bathukolpian, deep-bosomed. Path- 
ology was, first, the study of suffering. 


See monkey. 


See overture; month: April. 


Hesiod tells us that the goddess of 
love was bom of the foam of the 
sea : Gr. aphros, foam. The Phoenicians 
called their love-goddess Ashtoreth; the 
Gr. pronunciation of this would ap- 
proximate Aphtorethe — which was then 
altered so as to hold an appropriate 
meaning. Aphrodite, foam-borne. The 
same word also survives as Astarte, and 
Assyrian Ishtar. 

See cell. 


This revelation is really an unveiling, 
from Gr. apokalypsis, from apo — , off •\- 
kalyptein, to cover. Calypso, in the 
Odyssey, gave Odysseus a magic veil. 


These books of doubtful authorship — 
hence not canonical, not accepted as part 
of the Bible, though the Catholics admit 
some books the Jews and the Protestants 
reject— draw their name from Gr. apo, 
away, -f kryptein, to hide. Cp. grotesque. 

See pseudo — . 


Two forms and senses of one word 
have in this merged. The figure of 
turning aside to address someone, in the 
midst of a discourse, is the exact use, 
from Gr. apo, off, -+- strophe, from 
strephein, to turn. Y-ng. strophe (where- 
with the chorus turned, in Greek 
tragedy) is from the same source. The 
Gr. phrase he apostrophes prosodia was 
used to indicate an omitted part of a 
word, as for the sake of rhythm; then 
the one word was used; later, for the 
sign that marks an omission (or, in 
Eng., a possessive case). Coming to 
Eng. via Fr. apostrophe, this second 
sense should be sounded as of three 
syllables; but it has borrowed the 
fourth from the other use. 

See abaft. 



See peep, sempiternal. 

apparel, apparent, apparition, appear. 
See month: April. 


See propaganda. 

See anatomy. 

See subjugate. 


See penthouse. 

applaud, applause. 
See explaie. 


See peach. 


See achieve. The applepie bed, known 
to every boy in boarding school or 
camp, may take its name from the way 
the crust is turned back on itself (like 
the sheets folded over, halfwav down, 
inside) on an apple turnover; but may 
be a corruption of Fr. nappe pliie, 
folded sheet. 


When you apply yourself to a task, 
you bring yourself into close contact with 
the job. This was the first Eng. mean- 
ing of the word, via Fr. applier from L. 
applicare, applicat — , from ap, ad, to + 
plicare, to fold. From the L. comes also 
application, the act of bringing things to- 
gether. Complicate is of the same origin ; 
see complexion, To fold under, as the 
legs in kneeling, gives us supplication, 
suppliant, supple. To supply, however, is 
from OFr. supplier, suppleier, from L. 
sub, under -f- plere, to fill; whence also 
supplement (with the noim ending) ; 
similarly complete and complement: cp. 
foil. Compliment is the same word, 
limited to the fulfilling of the require- 
ments of courtesy. 


See application. 

apprehend, apprehensive. 

See surrender. 

See surprise. 



This word has come to us through 
many lands. It was once spelled apri- 
cock, from the Port, and Sp. form. 
By way of the Arab, al-burquq {al, 
the) — the al being changed through the 
influence of the Fr. form, abricot — it 
may be traced to a LGr. praekokion, 
thence to the L. praecox {prae, before 
-\-cox, from coquere, to cook), early 
ripe. Thus a precocious child may well 
enjoy an apricot. 


See month. 

See suction. 

apt, aptitude. 
See lasso. 

aquarium, ^uatic, aqueduct. 
See cell, dqke. 

See arachnid. 


The spiders are the children of 
Arachne (Crr. Arachne -j- -ides, chil- 
dren of: Hesperides, children of the 
west; Atlantides, cp. atlas). Arachne 
was a maiden whose weaving was so 
admired that she challenged Minerva. 
The goddess, though unsurpassed, 
praised Arachne's work, but the dis- 
consolate maiden sought to hang her- 
self—whereupon the goddess changed 
her into a spider. Anything fine as 
gossamer may be called arachnean. 

The Gr. ending -ides, offspring, has 
parallel in many tongues. Eng. -son; 
G. -sohn; Slavic -vits, -xtntM, -vich; -sky. 
Others prefix the indication: Hcb. and 
Arab. Ben: Benjamin, son of Yamin; 
Gaelic Mac and Mc. 

arbiter, arbitrate, arbitratioiu 
See compromise. 

arbor, arbour. 
See neighbor. 

arc. arch. 

See alabaster. 

arch- . 
See annihilate. 


This region of the world antedates 
the drawing of arcs around a globe. 




It applies to the north, from L. arc- 
ticus, northern, from Gr. arktikos, from 
arktos, a bear — from the appearance 
of the great bear as a constellation in 
the northern sky. Arthur's Wain (wain, 
cart, waggon) is an old Eng. name for 
the same star-cluster, by confusion of 
King Artiiur with Arcturuj, the Bear- 
guard. The North'^rn Lights were simi- 
larly called Arthur's Host. Legendary 
association of King Arthur and Charle- 
magne (Charles magnus, the great) has 
led to the constellation's also being 
called Charles' Wain — though it was 
hailed in Stuart times as for the £ng- 
lisli Cliariics, and is probably from 
churl's wain, farmer's waggon; Gr. 
hamaxa, waggon ; Heb. as, waggon, 
bier. ... At the opposite side of the 
world, of course, is the antarctic (L. 
anti, against). 


See aureole. 


As the butcher stores of yesterday 
used sawdust, so the older stores, kitch- 
ens, and amphitheatres, used sand, to 
soak up the blood. Arena (L. harena) 
means sand ; the covering applied to 
the place. 


See Appendix II. 


The silver, or white, of a coat of 
arms. See argue. 

argon, argonaut. 
See element, argosy. 


From Gr. argos, swift, the ship Argo 
was named, in which Jason and his 
argonauts (Gr. nautes, sailors, whence 
nautical; cp. nausea) set sail for the Hes- 
perides in search of the Golden Fleece. 
The gardens, Hesperides, took their name 
from the Hesperides, the nymphs that 
guarded it (with the aid of a dragon), 
daughters of Hesperos (L. vesperus, 
whence Eng. vespers, etc.), the evening 
star. Hesperos was the God of the west, 
of the sunset — the golden fleece? of the 
garden, in which grew the golden apples 
we call oranges (cp. peach), whence 
hesperidene and other scientific terms de- 
rived from or relating to the orange. 

This story did not form, but doubtless 
influenced, the word argosy, a ship; ear- 

lier forms are ragusye, ragosie : the word 
meant (a ship) from Ragusa (It. Ragusi) 
in Dalmatia, where, in the 15th and 16th 
c, very large merchant ships were built. 
(The magazine Argosy draws its name 
from the American publisher, Frank 
Argosy Munsey, who also used his last 
name for a title.) 

See slang. 


This word (from the Fr. and orig. 
the L. arguere) at first meant to 
prove. In the L. its various meanings, 
prove, reprove, come from a basic sense, 
to make white, i.e., to make plain or 
clear. In the (jr. form it is related to 
argent, silver or white. It is in this 
sense that the South American land 
was named the Argentine. The chemi- 
cal symbol for silver is Ag. Cp. debate; 


See Appendix II. 

5"^^ democracy. 


Sec algebra. 

Arizona, Arkansas. 

See States. 

arm, armadillo, army, etc. 
See art. 

See tank. 


See blunderbus. 


See errand. 

See Apliendix II. 


See turmeric. 


Just as advance (q.v.) was formed, so 
there was an early verb in Eng., arrear, 
to the rear, from OFr. arere, from L. 
ad retro, to the rear. It was used as an 
adverb, and in the phrase in arrear, mean- 
ing behind, backward, in time, place, or 



the fulfilment of obligations. Arrearage 
vvas also used in the last sense ; but the 
simpler form (in the plural, because lia- 
bilities always seem multiplied) has sur- 
vived, in arrears. 


See tank. 


See rival. 

arrogant, arrogate. 

See quaint. 


Though the contents may throw one 
arsey-varsey (cp. scurry), this has no re- 
lation with the common Teut. arse; which 
indeed is in Gr. arros, from arsos, rump. 
Arsenal keeps in Sp. the sense of work- 
shop that it had ir the original; it is 
from Arab, assinah, from al-sina'ah, the 
art, from sana-ah, to make (dar, house, 
was used earlier : dar assinah, and re- 
mains in early Romance forms darcena, 
taracena; in Fr. and Eng. it was prob- 
ably mistaken for d', of, and dropped) — 
hence, arsenal, a factory, a dock; then, 
from frequent military use, it was limited 
to a place for storing ammunition. 


This name was given by the Greeks 
to yellow orpiment (L. auripigmentum, 
golden pigment) ; from Gr. arsenikon, 
from arrenikon, male — meaning strong : it 
is a strong poison. This story is the one 
the NED sticks to; but others label this 
folk-etymology, and journey to the Arab. 
a::sirnikh, for al-sirnikh, from the Pers. 
zarnikh, orpiment, from zar, gold. 

Pigment is from the noun form of L. 
pingere, pict — , to paint; whence picture 
and (L. de, down) depict. The same 
pingere, via OFr peindre, became Eng. 
paint . . . Arsenic was spelled in a dozen 
ways; the element forms many com- 
pounds ; but any way you picture it. it's 
poison (cp. intoxicate). See element. 


See decay. 


See inertia. The root is ar, to fit, 
to join: in Gr. harmos, joint; whence 
also L. arma, arms, and the common 
Teut. word, AS. earm, whence Elng. 
arm of the body. Cp. pylorus. The L. 
armare, to arm, gives us armor, arma- 
ment, armada (the armored one), arma^ 


dillo (the little armored one), army, 
and more. Cp. onion. 


See pylorus. 

artesian well. 
See Appendix II. 

Arthur's Wain. 
See arctic. 


This choice vegetable was known to 
the Arabians, who called it al (the) 
kharshuf. In Spain this became alkhar- 
sofa, then alcachofa. Northern Italy 
borrowed the word, but turned its 
foreign ending into a more familiar 
form : by analogy with ciocco, stump, 
it became articiocco — whence Fr. arti- 
chaut. Eng. artichoke was probably also 
influenced by the sensation if you eat 
the wrong part. Note that Jerusalem 
artichoke has no connection with the 
Holy land, being a folk transformation 
of It. girasole, turn (with the) sun. 
Heliotrope has exactly the same mean- 
ing (Gr. helios, sun -f- tropos, from 
trepein, to turn. Cp. trophy). Cp. 


5"^^ defeat. 

See Hibemia. 

See alone. 


The more cold water poured upon 
quicklime, the more it steams ; it is 
"the unquenchable stone," from Gr. 
asbestos, from a, not + sbestos, from 
shennynai, to quench. Then the word 
was applied to a kind of flax that sup- 
posedly could not bum; finally, to the 
mineral we know as asbestos, often 
used for theatre curtains. The laughter 
of the gods (in Homer) is asbestos, 
unquenchable: the world to them is a 
source of endless comedy. 


See descend. The ascent is usually 
harder than the descent; but the assent 
is usually easier than the dissent — which, 
too, may cause dissention (disagreement 
leads to quarreling; thus the meaning 
changed). The consensus of opinion is 




what leads to consent; though consensus 
first meant the harmonious working to- 
gether of the parts of the body : from L. 
con, com, together, -j- sentire, sens — , to 
feel; then the agreeing of various per- 
sons. Thus assent is L. as, ad, toward ; 
dissent is L. dis, away, -f- sent—. The 
feelings are involved in presentiment, 
also, not to mention the senses them- 
selves through which we feel ; the senti- 
ments that we feel; sensation; sensuous 
(full of feeling); sensual (inclined to 
feeling, to the gratification of the senses) ; 
sensible (capable of feeling; hence, re- 
sponsive) ; sensitive (the passive form, 
with feelings readily stirred). A sentence 
first was a brief expression of a feeling, 
an opinion; hence also sententious ; then, 
a judicial decision ; also, a grammatical 
unit of speech. But one (<"/•. resent) must 
hope not to rouse resentment. 


This is from the Gr. adjective askcti- 
kos, from asketes, hermit. But the chief 
task of the hermit was to drive out the 
lusts of the flesh : the word is from Gr. 
askeein, to exercise (like athletes in 


See shrine. 


See Europe. 


This word may be from ME. as- 
koyne, from Du. schuin, sidewise. But 
it more probably indicates the link be- 
tween a candle holder and a fleeing 
banker : a sconce was a screened lamp 
or candle, from OFr. esconse, from L. 
sconsa, from absconsa, from abscondere, 
abscons — , to hide away. Hence also 
to abscond. 


On a hot day, did you ever stand 
under a cold dispersion f Our use of 
this word is figurative; it is, from L. 
aspergerc, aspers — , to sprinkle, to 
splash, from ad, on, to -|- spargere, 
spars — to scatter; cp. affluent. Since 
what is usually splashed is mud, the 
word has taken its present application. 


See dafifodil. 


The poisonous snake (L. aspis), the asp 
is also, esp. in poetry, called the asfnc. 

wliicli is its name in i'Venrh. The Fretich 
have a proverb "fioid connne un aspic", 
cold as an asp : this common saying, ap- 
plied with a humorous int'.;nt, gave its 
name to the frozen gelatin di'Sh.ert, aspic, 
(ielatin, gelatine, via It. gelata, is itself 
frozen, from L. gelare, gelat — , to freeze, 
from gelu, frost. .And jelly is the same 
word, via Fr. geler, to freeze (past parti- 
ciple, feminine, gelee). The earlier aspic 
was a jelly with meat or game frozen 
in; a delightful dish, despite Thackeray's 
having someone die (I'anity Fair, 62) 
"of an aspic of plovers' eggs" . . . which 
brings hack thoughts of the asp. (An- 
ticipating the American arch-realist Bel- 
asco, a French director provided Cleopatra 
witli a miclianital asp that, before biting 
her, lifted its luad and hissed. The final 
word rested witli the critic that wrote: 
"I agree with the asp.") 


See trophy. 


See insult. 


This murderer of one in high place 
was originally one of a band (our 
word ronu's from the plural form) of 
Assassins (Arab, hashshashin, hashish- 
eaters) who were organized as a secret 
society in Persia, in the 11th c. Their 
leader was supposedly the Old Man of 
the Mountains, who sent them forth to 
destroy the Christian leaders. The 
Christians retaliated by preserving their 
name to mark one that kills by treach- 
erous violence, assassinates. (Through 
much of the east, hashish is called 
bhang, from Sansk. bhanga, hemp.) 


See insult. 

See ascent. 


This word was first used of the 
money a dead man has left, to clear 
away his debts. It was spelled aseth in 
Piers Plowman (ca. 1370), from Cioth. 
saths, full, cognate with L. satis; see 
satisfy. The early form, indeed, was 
supplanted by use of the Fr. assez, 
enough, from L. ad -f- satis. In case 
there are no assets, liabilities is from 
Fr. liable, from Her, from L. ligare, 
to bind, whence ligament. Cp. legible. 




See resign. 


As the body takes in food, it changes 
all sorts of things (almost) into sub- 
stances like the various parts of the 
body, each in its kind : blood, bone, tissue, 
nails, and hair, and all the rest. This pro- 
cess of changing unlike things to like is 
in the very word, from L. assimilare, 
assimilat — , to liken, from ad, to -f- 
simil — , like. Hence the figure of speech, 
simile, and things similar. There also 
developed the form L. simulare, simulat — , 
to be like, whence Eng. simulate. Thus 
also, simultaneous, from L. siniul, ap- 
plied to time. 


See tank. 

See sock. 

assort, assorted. 
See sorcerer. 

assume, assumption. 

See prompt. 


Sec Aphrodite. 

See flower. 


The earlier form of this word was 
astone or astun. There are two theories 
as to its origin. It is traced through 
OFr. cstoiie/ (modern Fr. etonner), L. 
ex, out -|- tonare, thunder ; as though 
struck by thunder. It thus meant to 
stun, to render senseless ; later, the em- 
phasis was laid on the mental rather 
than on the physical effect. But its de- 
velopment also suggests a stone : turned 
to stone. Thus there is repetition as 
well as hyperbole in the expression "I 
was petrified with astonishment \" Pet- 
rified (L. petra, rock -f- fy, from fier, 
from ficare, from faccrc, make) re- 
minds one of the pun that established 
the Catholic Church : "On this rock 
{Peter) I shall stand." 

See Appendix II. 

This measuring device is from Gr. 

aster, star, -|- lambanein, to take ; cp. dis- 

astrology, astronomy. 
See disaster. 

See sundry. 


See uncle. 

See monk. 


See theology. 


This city is rightly named : the flower 
of Greece— from the root ath, whence 
Gr. anthos, flower ; whence, many Eng. 
words beginning antho — , e.g. anthology, 
a flower gathering (hence, book of se- 
lections) + Gr. legein, to gather. 


You are not really an athlete unless 
you have been in competition. The run- 
ning, jumping, boxing, wrestling of the 
Greek youth in the Olympic games was 
rewarded with an athlon, prize; Gr. 
athlos, contest, atkleein, to compete, ath- 
letes, a competitor. The adjective ath- 
letikos, with a plural formed by analogy 
with mathematics, politics, and the like, 
gives us Eng. athletics. The milder callis- 
thenics are recommended for the fairer 
sex ; from Gr. callos, beauty, -1- sthenos, 
strength; cp. calibre. 

Atlantic, atlantides. 

See atlas. 


The gods fought all who gave men 
power some day to equal the gods. 
From their deeds and punishments, vari- 
ous words have come into our language. 
The early lucifer match is from the 
fallen angel Lucifer (L. lur, luci — , 
light -\- f err e, to bring) who, just as 
Prometheus, tried to bring light, knowl- 
edge, to man. Promethean may refer to 
the desire, or the punishment, of Pro- 
metheus, who was chained to the rock 
with a vulture forever devouring his 
liver. Sisyphus, a king of Corinth, was 
punished by having to roll a heavy stone 
up a hill ; just as it came to the top, 
back it rolled again: endless repetition 
of work thus forms a Sisyphean task. 



like that of the motion picture publicity 
man. The giant sons of Terra (Earth) 
and Titan rebelled against the gods. 
Among them, Tantalum was placed in a 
pool to his chin, but the waters as he 
dipped toward them receded ; fruit dan- 
gled over his head, but if he reached 
toward it drew away : to spread before 
one what one may not enjoy is to tan- 
talice. Atlas was given the burden of 
holding up the world ; he may be seen 
at the task in front of Radio City, New 
York, today. His name was also given 
to a mountain in Lybia supposed to 
support tlie heavens. Atlantes (Gt. Atlas, 
Atlant — ) are stone figures, instead of 
columns, holding up a structure; so also 
are atlantides (Gr., daughters of Atlas). 
From Lybia westward the name Atlan- 
tic, of Atlas, was given to the ocean. 
Mercator, in 1636, used the name atlas 
of a book of maps, from the fact that 
the picture of Atlas holding the world 
was the usual frontispiece {q.v.). Cp. 

Note, however, that the first far-travel- 
ers came from the east, and that atlas is 
an eastern satin silk, from Arab, atlas, 
smooth, from talasa, to rub smooth : the 
early maps were painted on cloth. 


See trophy. 


See anatomy. 


A house divided against itself is as 
an evil man ; to atone for one's sins is 
to find inner unity, to become at one 
with oneself once more. (Similarly, in 
OFr., to unite is adujicr , ■ aiiner , at one.) 
In the same fashion, Joseph Smith, 
founding the Mormon sect (at Man- 
chester, New York, in 1830), said that 
the Book of Mormon is from Eng. 
more + Egypt, mon, good. More fre- 
quently, such homemade combinations 
are slang or humorous compounds, e.g. 
comeatable, come-at-able. 

The noun atonement was an earlier 
form than the verb, itself preceded by the 
expression "to make an onement with 

For other fusings, see Dora. 


See trophy (to which it is not related). 

See trophy. 



See attack. 


This word means literally to stick a 
tack into (OFr. attaquer, attacher, 
ataquer, from ad, to 4-Celtic tak, peg). 
Attach is its obvious doublet; to take 
the peg away is to detach. This is a 
common Teut. form : Goth, tekan, to 
touch ; also L. tangere, tact — , whence 
tangent, contact, etc. ; cp. taste. An ini- 
tial s, however, has been dropped ; the 
basic root is Aryan stag, to stick; 
whence Gr. and Eng. stigma, a prick, 
mark, sign ; Gr. stichein, to prick ; 
whence instigate, to prick into some- 
thing; and A.S. stician, whence Eng. 
sting and stick (as, to stick a pig) ; If. 
stang, a pin. Thus the might of attack- 
ing armies, viewed down the ages, is as 
the pricking of a pin against the ribs 
of time. Cpi etiquette. But see deck. 

In prick also an initial s has been 
lost : it is from the Aryan root spark, to 
scatter, sprinkle, whence L. sparcere, 
whence spargere; MHG. sprengen, to 
scatter, whence ME. sprengen, frequen- 
tative sprenkle, whence Eng. sprinkle. 
A prick was originally a mark, a dot, 
then a point, then the point's piercing. 
(Pin is from LL. pinna, from L. penna, 
a feather : cp. vogue : used as a stylus 
for writing on vr&x.) This group is 
linked with the Aryan root sparg, to 
crackle, to burst (after which, things 
scatter ; whence, spark and sparkle : the 
little fire-burstings of stars), whence 
Teut. sprak, whence sprank, whence 
AS. springcn, whence Eng. spring, 

Water bursts from the ground in a 
spring; shoots burst from the ground 
in the spring; when planks split they 
are sprung. The children that burst 
from one are one's offspring; if you 
sit on a tack you spring off! 


This is one end of the devious line of 
which later offshoots are probably attach 
and attack (q.v., not found in Shake- 
speare). To attain is via Fr. atteindre, 
atteign — (whence also Eng. attainder), 
from L. attingere, attact — , from ad, to 
-f tangere, tact — , to touch ; cp. taste. But 
closely related to L. tangere, tact — , to 
touch, was L. tingere, tinct—, to steep; 
from which we have Eng. tincture, and 
via Fr. teindre and teint, Eng. taint and 
tint. The verb taint, perhaps, is an aphetic 
back-formation from attaint, which it- 




self is a confusion of L. attactum, as 
though the past participle of L. attingere 
were attinct-um; hence attaint, which was 
first the past tense of attain, to get at, 
to touch, became a seperate verb meaning 
to spoil, to convict. The senses are fused 
in the meaning to touch as with a 
disease, to infect. Injection is spread from 
L. inficere, infect — , from in, into + 
faccre, to do, to make : to dip in. to sub- 
ject or expose to. Contagion calls for 
actual contact, from L. conUngere, con- 
tact — , from con, com, together, + tangere. 
Cp. deck. Let us hope that you attciin 
without attaint! 


See attain. 


The L. tener, delicate, had a d slipped 
into it, in OFr. tcndre ; whence come Eng. 
tender and its compounds, tenderloin (see 
sirloin), tenderfoot, tenderness; directly 
from L., the teneral state of insects ; etc. 
These must not be confused with the 
words L. tendere, tens — , tent — , to 
stretch: tensile strength, tense (the pres- 
ent and past tense are via OFr. tens, from 
L. tctnpus, time), tendril, and many more, 
for which see tennis. Tent is directly 
from tendere, tent — , but in its meaning 
of absorbent cloth to tuck in a wound, 
it is from the frequentative temptare 
(also tentare). To reach out toward 
something is to attempt it, from L. 
attentare, frequentative of tendere 
(whence the earlier Eng. form attent; 
attend, attentive), whence LL. attemptare, 
Eng. attempt. 

See tennis. 

See test. 


One suggestion links this word with 
the countryside, Attica, the state in 
which Athens stood. From the manners 
of the city, Attic meant elegant. It 
was also applied to the style of archi- 
tecture of that section ; one feature of 
this was a small decorative row of col- 
umns atop a larger (as on the Pan- 
theon at Athens) ; hence, attic, any top 
storey. But Sansk. attaka was the high- 
est room of the Indian house, from 
atta, lofty. Loft, an upper chamber, 
and lofty, are both from AS. lyft, air, 
sky, from G. Luft. Verandah is from 

Sansk. varanda, a portico. Storey, story, 
floor of a house, is the same word as 
story, a tale (OFr. estoire, from L. 
hislorta), perhaps because of "storied" 
windows, a legend for each floor. Thus 
a second-story man just tells another 
tale I 

A store (originally a verb, to store) 
is from OFr. estorer, from L. instat4^ 
rare, to begin with, to repair, replenish. 
Restore is from OFr. restorer, from L. 
restaurare, to repair, the present parti- 
ciple of which restaurans, restaurant — , 
gives us restaurant. 

See tire. 


The idea of turning is of course very 
old : from AS. turnian, from tyman; 
Fr. tourner, from L. tornare, tornat — , 
from tornyis, lathe, from Gr. tornos, 
pair of compasses. From OFr. tournoi 
and tournoiement come tourney and 
tournament, at which the chief games 
were those in which knights rode away 
from one another, then turned and 

If you were in trouble, or were go- 
ing away, you would select someone to 
turn to (Fr. a, to -\- tourner, turn), to 
represent you ; this man was your at- 
torney. Its first meaning was, one as- 
signed to act for another ; as still in 
the expression, power of attorney. When 
you take a detour, of course, you turn 
CFway from the main path (Fr. di, from, 
-\- tourner). Cp. torch. 


An attractive proposition is one that 
draws you to it. The first sense of 
attract was physical : to draw nourish- 
ment to oneself. It came into the lang- 
uage about 1550, formed by analogy with 
contract (cp. distraction) and abstract, 
used in Eng. a century and a half earlier. 
To abstract is to draw away (trahere, 
tract — , to draw; at, ad, to; ab, abs, 
away) ; hence, to draw away from the 
physical, hence, an abstraction. Concrete 
is from L. concrescere, concr^t — , from 
L. con, com, together, -f- crcscere, to 
grow; whence crescent (cp. excrement) 
and (via OFr. encrcsitre, encreiss — ) in- 


See tribulation. 


See terse, tribulation. 




Here is a word that has changed col- 
or down the years. It is from L. 
alburnus, whitish, from albus, white. 
This gives us (directly- from the L. 
neuter) album, a white tablet, book; 
albino; albumen, white of egg, and 
"perfidious Albion," from the white 
cliffs of Dover. But Bishop Hall, speak- 
ing in his satires (ca. 1598) of abron 
locks, shows that the word was con- 
fused with Eng. brown. The spelling 
did not remain modified, but the color 
did. To put white down on something, 
L. de -\- albare, whence dalbare, whence 
F. dauber, to plaster, gives Eng. dauber 
and daub. The L. albus may be related 
to Hittite alpash, cloud, suggesting the 


It is one thing to hear a challenge, an- 
other to accept it. To the ancient Roman, 
however, no sooner heard than done. To 
hear is L. audire (see audit) ; to dare is 
L. audere. The adjective from this verb 
is audax, audaci — , bold; whence Eng. 
audacious ( — ous from — osus, full of) : 
full of audacity. 


If you have ever had the joy of car- 
rying off a desired object against the 
bid of others, you can see why auction 
comes directly from L. auctionem, from 
augere, auxi — , auct — , to increase, to 
add. (Thus an auxiliary is an added 
force.) But have you noted that a 
man who increases something, or in- 
creases the supply of things, is also an 
auctor, whence OFr. and OE. autor, 
whence Eng. author! An augur (prom- 
ising blessed increase, as what fortune 
teller does not ! and in this mood giving 
us the adj. august, the Emperor Augus- 
tus, and the eighth month) may be 
derived from this word, or from L. 
auger, from avis, bird -|- gerere, to han- 
dle, as interpreting the entrails or the 
flight of birds. Before starting an im- 
portant project, it was customary to 
inaugurate it by consulting an augur; 
until inauguration was limited to the 
important public event of a new regime. 

Auspicious is from L. auspex, au- 
spic — , from avis, bird -j- specere, to see : 
inspect, to look at; respect, to look 
again, to heed ; speculate, from L. spec- 
ulare, to spy out, from sPecere; con- 
spicuous, "full of looking together" ; 
etc. (By dint of wishing, auspicious 
came to mean not merely full of omen, 


but full of good omen. Hence also 
auspices. Note that the ear, being a 
nocturnal sense, is more distrustful 
than the eye : omen and ominous, from 
L. audire, to hear,? imply evil impend- 

Auger, the tool, is from OE. nafu, 
nave, hub of a wheel, -f gar, borer. (It 
lost the n, like adder, OE. naddre, ser- 
pent : a naddre, whence an addre. Apron 
is another familiar word showing this 
transfer : a napron, whence an apron, 
from OFr. naperon, diminutive of nape, 
nappe, from L. mappa, tablecloth. The 
Fr. gives us Eng. napery, and the Eng. 
diminutive napkin. The related MDu. 
noppen gives Eng. nap, rough hairs or 
thread on the surface of a cloth; hence 
? the nape of the neck. Similarly um- 
pire is ME. noumper, from OFr. nom- 
per, from LL. non pair, from L. non 
par, not equal, an odd man called in 
when two parties disagree. Cp. humble. 
The reverse process appears in words 
like newt : an ewt, whence a newt. 
Thus an eke-name (Eng. eke, from 
AS. ecan, to augment, a common Teut. 
word), an added name, became a neke- 
name, wherjce a nickname. Cp. map. 

See audit. 


The earliest examining of accounts 
was done orally; the bookkeeper was 
given a hearing (L. audire, audit — , to 
hear). The present participle, the one 
hearing (L. audiens), gives us audience. 
Those seeking a radio job may be 
granted an audition. The voice of 
righteousness is too often inaudible; 
others require an auditorium. 

audition, auditorium. 

See audit. 


See auction. 


See nausea. 


The L. ending — mentum (L. mentum, 
mind?) was added to the verbal form 
to name the action, or its result or means. 
Thus fragment (cp. discuss), ornament 
(L. ornare, ornat — , to adorn; whence 
also Eng. ornate; adorn is from L. ad, 
to ■+- ornare. L. ornare is perhaps a con- 
traction of ordinare, to set in order, from 



ordo, ordin — , order ; cp. orient. From 
this we have Eng. ordinance, which meant 
first arrangement in order; ordnance, the 
arrangement of military supplies, then 
artillery in general ; ordonnance, system- 
atic arrangement; also ordinary, which 
first meant orderly, then \ egular, usual ; 
and, via OFr. ordener, ordeiner, Eng. or- 
dain. Ordeal is of other souice, being 
AS. ordel, related to Eng. deal: a judic- 
ial test — which, from tests by fire, by 
throwing into a river, and the like, ac- 
quired its present meaning.). Sometimes 
the L — men turn, Eng. — ment, has been 
addded to a word not of L. origin, as 
betterment, atonement. 

Thus augment was first an Eng. noun, 
then used as a verb, from L. augere, 
auxi — , auct — , to increase ; see auction. 


See auction, 

See auction; month. 

See ant. 

5"^^ scourge. 


This is frequently imderstood as a 
crown of gbld; thus John Donne refers 
to it as coronam aureolam, as a L. 
diminutive of aurea, golden circle, from 
attrum, gold. This noticm has thrust 
the u into the original areola, from Fr. 
areole, from L. areola, diminutive of 
area. (L. area and Gr. halos, whence 
Eng. halo, have run through the same 
course of meanings: a plot of ground, 
whence Eng. area; a threshing-floor; a 
ring around a heavenly body.) De 
Quincey uses the word correctly when 
he speak of saints "bom with a 1am.- 
bent circle of golden areola about their 
heads." Originally there was a disc, 
not just a ring; its purpose in all 
likelihood was not to indicate sftnctity 
but to protect the figure from pigeon- 
droppings, which have not ceased to be 
a statuary pest. 


The Greeks and Romans made many 
gods, by putting a capital letter on 
the common name for a thing (unless 
the process went in the other direction, 
and the gods became the thmgs.) Thus 
Aurora was the goddess of the dawn; 


whence Eng. auroral. Boreas was the 
North Wind, or the god thereof; the 
aurora horealis is the phenomenon 
otherwise known as the Northern 
Lights. At the antipodes, this is the 
aurora australis, from L. auster, austr — , 
south ; whence Eng. austral. Cp. stem. 
"Beyond the north wind" is hyperborean, 
(Gr. hyper, beyond). 

The southern continent of Australia 
was earlier L. terra australis, the south- 
ern land; but note that Austria is from 
G. Oesterreich, the eastern kingdom. 
Austro — is a combining form, as in 
auslromancy, divining by the winds; cp. 

See scourge. 

auspices, auspicious. 
See auction. 


See stern. 

austral, Australia, Austria. 
See aurora. 


The L. sum, esse, fui, futurus, to be, 
had a present participle, sons, sont-^, 
used to mean the being, the one it was — 
hence, guilty. As it lapsed from associa- 
tion with the verb, two other present 
participles developed : ( 1 ) essens, es- 
sent — ; this gives us Eng. essence, the 
essential thing, the being itself ; for 
further emphasis the quintessence, q.v.; 
and (2) ens, ent — , from which we have 
Eng. entity, nonentity. The L. is related 
to Gr. hentes, being ; this with Gr. auto — , 
self, gave Gr. authentes, one who acted 
for himself (hence did the job well) ; 
whence the adjective Gr. authentikos, 
Eng. authentic. Confused in the 14th c. 
with L. auctor, author {cp. auction), this 
was early spelled auctentyke, autentyke; 
from the first in Eng. it meant entitled 
to obedience or belief. 


See auction. 


See humble. 


See amphigory. 


See graffito. 




See amphigory. 

See intoxicate. 


See amphigory. 


See pessimist. 


See equinox. 

See auction. 


See infirmary. 


This word has been traced, via Fr. 
avaler, to swallow, and Fr. aval, down- 
ward, to the L. ad valient, to the valley 
— as L. ad montem, to the mountain, 
gave Fr. amont, upward. Others say 
that the first part of the word was 
shaped by association with this Fr. 
aval; but it is basically from L. lahi, 
to slide, whence LL. labina, land-slide, 
whench Prov. lavanca, whence Fr. 
lavanche. Confusion of la lavanche, the 
landslide, gave avalanche. Similarly la 
munition became Fr. and Eng. ammuni- 
tion. A number of words from the 
Arabic have kept the article al, the, as 
part of the Eng. word; cp. alcohol; 
and some Eng. words have lost or 
added an initial letter in the same 
fashion ; cp. auction. Munition is, from 
L. munire, munit — , to fortify, from 
moeiiire, to put a wall around, from 
mceuia, ramjiarts, from Sansk. root ntu, 
to bind, to protect. 


See harpoon. L. avere, to desire, had 
the adjective L. avarus, greedy. Hence 
also avidity. 


The landlubber etymologists hunt 
around separate shores for this. Some 
claim it as from Du. hou' vast, for 
houd vast, hold fast. But the Portu- 
guese were also great sailors : Port. 
abasta, enough (It. basta), supposedly 
from the Arabic of still earlier sea- 
farers. Cp. bazooka. 

The companion term, belay, also used 
to mean stop, more exactly is the order 


to tie up the running ropes of the 
ship : from an earlier belage, from Du. 
bellegen, to bind; cp. legible. When 
belage was used in English, belay meant 
to attack, to waylay, from OE. hi -\- 
lecgan, to lay. But laziness and rough 
speech fused the two words, and with 
the passing of the highwayman as an 
English national institution, the nautical 
sense became supreme. Avast, my 
hearties ! 


See vengeance. 


Appearing in 12th c. Fr. as averie, 
average came into use ca. 1490, mean- 
ing a day's work the King's tenants 
were required to give to the Sheriff, 
esp. with their beasts of burden. It is 
conjectured that the word is related, 
through Fr. aver, with L. habere, to 
have. The tenant must carry a certain 
amount of provisions (in war time) 
etc., according to his possessions, his 
"havings." The number of cattle he 
used might vary (a horse, e.g., carries 
more than a mule), but the stipulated 
amount (the average) remains the same. 
The use of the word in this mathe- 
matical sense is found only in English. 


See tavern. 

averse, avert. 
See advertise. 

See cell. 


See avaricious. 

See nausea. 

See vacuum. 


See adipose. 

avouch, avow. 
See vote. 


Lamb speaks of eyes that come away 
"kindly, with no Oedipean avulsion." 
The word is from L. a, ab, from -f- vel- 
lere, vuls — , to pull, to pluck. This is 



more familiar in Eng. revulsion, a swift 
pulling back. A gentler drawing back 
provides a revelation, from L. revelare, 
revelat-^ to draw back the veil, L. velum. 
By way of Fr. reveler, this gives us 
reveal; cp. cloth : voile. The morning 
summons in the army, revelly, reveilli, 
is the Fr. imperative, reveilles, of se 
reveilhr, to wake up, to watch again, 
from vcillcr, to watch, to stay awake, 
from L. vigilare ; cp. alert. Linked with 
this (via Fr. reveillon, a gay party, esp. 
at Christmas) is the boisterous revel, 
though via OFr. reveler it may also be 
connected with L. rebellare, to rebel, to 
fight back, from re, back -\- bellum, battle. 


See uncle. 

See Washington, Appendix III. 


This word is AS. onweg, on the way. 
It might also have been ofweg, off the 
way ; that is what it was in wayward, 
from which initial a has dropped. It has 
dropped with more surprising conse- 
quence in down. The downs of England 
are the uplands, esp. the chalk hills, 
from AS. dun, whence Eng. dune, a 
doublet. Adown, meaning off the hill, 
lost its initial a; but down, the adverb, 
still carries one off the heights. 

awe, awesome, awry. 

A word sooner seen than heard is 
awry; perhaps my own childhood 
blunder leads me now to exaggerate the 
number of those that pronounce the 
word as though it were from awe : aw 
ree. The adjective from awe is, of 
course, awesome ( — some usually means 
many would like it ; as in handsome, 
originally pleasant to handle; toothsome, 
pleasant to eat. In origin the suffix 
is related to seem, as also in lonesome). 
Awry was in OE. on wry, as many 
call for ham. 

All English words beginning with 
wr are of Teutonic origin ; most of 
them have some sense of twisting. Thus 
wrath, twisting in rage; wreath, a 
twined garland (from OE. writh, a 
weak form of writhan, to writhe, q.v.). 
Cp. Pylorus (wrist). Wry is directly from 
ME. wrien, to twist, from AS. wrigian, 
to turn aside; whence also ME. 
wriggen, to twist, and its frequentative 



Eng. wriggle. Many try to wriggtg 
out when things go awry. 

Wring is from AS. vt^ingan, to twist. 
A wrong is something twisted; it is 
earlier ztrang, from wring. And a wrist 
(cp. pylorus) is that with which we 
twist our hands. 

ax, axe, axiom. 

These are all words taken early into 
their present uses, though with many 
figurative applications widening since. Ax 
is earlier aex, OE. ocs, whence the early 
ax-tree, now replaced by ctxle-tree or 
axle, from OTeut. stem ahsula, diminu- 
tive of OTeut. ahs-a, ax. Axiom is via 
Fr. axiome from Gr. axioma (plural axio- 
mata; Eng. axiomatic), that which is 
accepted, from Gr. axios, worthy. Axis 
is directly from L. axis, axle, pivot. The 
Gr. word for ax was axine, whence axin- 
ite, a stone with crystals shaped like an 
ax-head ; and axinomancy, divination with 
a heated ax; cp. necromancy. Axiolite is 
a stone tetiding to crystallize along an 
axis. The foes of the United Nations in 
World War II are referred to as the 
axis powers, not because they were the 
pivot to turn the world, but because of 
their geographical position. 

axis, axle. 

See ache. ax. The axis is that around 
which something moves. 

ay, aye, aye-aye. 

See altruism. 


The summit, highest point, is from Fr. 
sommet, diminutive of OFr. som, from 
L. summus (whence Eng. sum), replac- 
ing supmus as superlative of super, 
superior, above. 

This is apparently unrelated to Arab. 
samt, way, direction, plural sumut; with 
the prefixed al, the, al-summut, assumut, 
this was used in astronomy and became 
Eng. azimuth. The same word, as ap- 
plied in the phrase Arab, samt al-ras, 
samt arras, the direction up above, gives 
Eng. zenith. Then the Arab, nazir, oppo- 
site, used in waxriV assemt, led to Eng. 


See element: nitrogen. 

azyme, azymite 

See zymurgy. 


See Beelzebub. 


See Appendix II. 


This is a mocking imitation of those 
that talk on and on, with little to say : 
ba. .ba. . -\- the intensive or frequenta- 
tive ending — le, as in trickle, startle, 
etc. But the word was influenced by 
babel, the tower of confusion, which 
the Jews sought to erect as an en- 
trance to heaven : from Heb. Bab -\- el, 
gate of God — a translation of the 
earlier Turanian Ca-dimirra, Gate of 
God. Cp. bavardage. 

See abbot. 

See babble. 


See abbot. 

See bachelor. 


See Battersea. 


This word has several stories hidden 
in its past. The Aryan root wak, to 
speak, whence Sansk. vasa, whence L. 
vacca, whence bacca, a cow (the low- 
ing animal) ; a herd of cows is LL. 
baccalia; whence baccalarius, farm-serv- 
ant. Vassal may be related to the San- 
skrit root. (L. vacca, whence Eng. 
vaccinate, as Jenner in 1798 used the 
term variolae vaccinae for cow-pox.) 
In feudal days, he was subordinate to 
a banneret, a man that could lead 
retainers under a banner of his own. 


This is the most likely suggestion; 
there are more. 

Being subordinate to the horsemen, 
these soldiers were OFr. bas chevaliers, 
corrupted to bacheliers. Having once 
fought in battle, they were entitled to 
the designation battalarius, corrupted to 
baccalarius. In the academic field, the 
baccalaureus is the recipient of the 
bacca laureus, the laurel berry ; this is 
probably just an adaptation of the al- 
ready existing word ; thence, bacca- 

The Welsh had a word for it, too: 
backer, a vassal, a youth, from gwas, 
boy, whence OFr. bachelette, young 
girl. His youth and service made it 
likely he was unmarried. Finally, via 
Ir. bachlach, peasant, shepherd, hence, 
man with a staff, from Ir. bachall, 
staff, it is traced to L. baculum, rod; 
cp. bacteria. 

See bacteria. 


When bacteria were first observed 
(ca. 1847) they looked under the micro- 
scope like little sticks — and were so 
called ; but of course by a learned term : 
bacterium was coined from Gr. bak- 
terion, diminutive of baktron, staff. 
Some time later (ca. 1883) another 
form of tiny vegetable organism — a 
bit larger than the bacterium — was dis- 
covered. For it a word was borrowed 
from medieval Latin : bacillus, from LL. 
baculus, a rod. There is an Eng. word, 
which died before the practice ended : 
baculine, referring to punishment with 
a stick. Cp. imbecile. 


This, word may be from L. baga 
(modFr. bague) ring, from bacca, link 
of a chain ; or from AS. beagh, crown, 
ringlet. Thus it might stand as a sign 
of slavery or of high honor. 



Sir Thomas More calls this animal 
a bageard, whence the suggestion that 
it is one with a badge, i.e., the white 
mark on its forehead. However, the 
name was applied late, to the animal 
known earlier as the brock or bawson, 
and is probably a nickname. 

The Aryan root tal, to lift, formed 
the old L. verb, tlao, flatus (surviving in 
classical L. only in the past participle 
of ferre, tuli, latus, to bring) : ablatus 
was used of com carried away (L. 
ab, away) from the field; whence ab- 
ladutn, whence LL. bladum, corn. (This 
is not related to blade, a leaf, or the 
leaflike flat of a sword, AS. blaed, 
leaf, from OHG. plat, whence Eng. 
flat, from Aryan root bla, blow, blos- 
som, whence L. florere, whence Eng. 
flower, flourish.) LL. bladger, whence 
ME. badger, was a dealer in corn — a 
preoccupation of the animal given the 
name. In France the same animal was 
called Fr. blaireau, from ble, com. 

In many places the badger was a 
common pest (Wisconsin is thus the 
Badger State) ; hence grew the "sport" 
of putting a badger in a barrel and 
setting the dogs at it; this gives us 
the verb, to badger; also, the badger- 
game. Badger is still used in some 
localities for a dealer in grain, or a 
food peddler. 

bag. bagatelle. 
See baggage. 


There is a ME. bagge, whence Eng. 
bag; but this word is not frequent in 
Teut. But LL. baga, whence OFr. 
baguer, to tie up, whence bagues, 
bundles, and OFr. bagage, whence Eng. 
baggage, took the place of L. impedi- 
menta, from impedxre, to impede, from 
im, from in -\- ped — , foot ; cp. pedor 
gogue (Eng. impede; impediment) as 
the term for army packs. A little pack 
is a bagatelle, a trifle. The word bag- 
gage, at one time used for unimportant 
bundles, degenerated into meaning re- 
fuse ; in this sense the Fr. used bagasse, 
which also was applied to a worthless 
woman, a camp-follower; hence the 
Elizabethan Eng. saucy baggage. The 
word gradually lost its bad implications, 
and is again applied to any lively g^rl, 
or to the supplies with which one 
travels. These two meanings were not 
in Shakespeare's mind, however, when 


he set forth with bag and baggage. 


This word, (from L. baiulare, to 
carry, then to take care of) first meant 
in Eng. friendly custody of a person, 
guaranteeing to produce him when 
wanted. The man that gives bail was 
thus compared to the baitdus, Gr. 
baioulos, porter, trainer, nurse that car- 
ries a little thing (Gr. baios), a child. 
Bajulus is sometimes used in place of 
another word with a similar history, 
pedagogue, q.v. : flie Grand Bajulus of 
the Greek Court. Cp. villain. 

To bail out a boat came into use in 
the early 17th c. ; but 150 years before, 
the word was used as a noim to in- 
dicate a scoop for pouring out water, 
from Fr. bailie, bucket (Fr. bailler, to 
yawn), from LL. bacula, diminutive of 
L. baca, trough. A brewer's or dis- 
tiller's trough is still called a bac or 

bailifiF, bailiwick. 
See villain. 


By two routes from the same origin 
(ON. beita, causal of bita, to bite; 
and the feminine beita, food) bait 
means to egg on, as to urge dogs (or 
rascals) to annoy and harass a person; 
and food — either given directly, as to 
bait a horse, or as a lure in fishing. 
From an OFr. form of the same word, 
beter, came abeter, to incite (ad, to-f- 
beter), whence our own word abet 
(one of those paired words, like "with- 
out let or hindrance :" "to aid and abet") . 

See bay. 


See ache. 


See Appendix II. 


In the Bible (Numbers XXII, 30) 
we are told that Balaam had an aiss that 
spoke with the voice of a man. In 
newspaper offices, oddities kept in 
type, to be used when odd comers of 
space and columns' ends are tmfilled, 
are called balaam. Balaam's box, at 
first the place where these were kept, 
was later used for the wastebasket. 




See pie. 

See bonfire. 

See bulk. 

See ballot. 

See blimp. 


This word (from It. ballota, bullet, 
diminutive of balla, ball; bullet is 
through the Fr. boulette, diminutive of 
boule, ball; the L. is from Gr. ballein, 
to tlirow; see devil) indicates the early 
method of secret voting, by placing 
white or black balls in a receptacle; 
hence, to reject something (now, es- 
pecially a person from membership) is 
to blackball it. The opposite process is 
employed in a lottery. The L. word 
sors, a drawing, was translated in AS. 
as hlot Eng. lot; this term was bor- 
rowed by the Romance languages (Fr. 
lot; It. lotto, which gives us the game 
lotto; It. lotteria, Eng. lottery) and 
some of our uses are borrowed back 
from them. The AS. for casting lots 
is we or pan hlot. From weorpan comes 
Eng. warp, thiown across the 7veft or 
woof, to form the web or piece of 
cloth. Hence, something thrown cross- 
wise, therefore distorted, is warped. 
AS. webb and AS. wefan, weave, are 
in one train of ideas and words. The 
drawing for order-numbers in the U. S. 
Army draft for World War II was 
made with balls. But ballots and bul- 
lets are closer in origin than in demo- 
cratic employment. 


Around 1885 the expression baily 
was substituted in Eng., for the oath 
Bloody! {Cp. goodbye.) A popular 
music hall song then used the refrain 
"t-in^-'yhooly truth," as an Irish phrase 
for "the whole bloody truth." It is 
also suggested that the term was in- 
fluenced by the village of Ballyhooly, 
in County Cork, Ireland. What with the 
Irish reputation for blarney (Whoever 
hung out the window of Blarney 
Castle, near Cork, and kissed the magic 
stone, became a most cajoling speaker) 
the term ballyhoo was applied to the 

appeal made by the barker seeking 
customti: for his show. 

baluster, balustrade. 
See banister. 


Cognate with Gr. and L. fa, speak, 
ban was an edict, esp. the summons by 
proclamation, esp. of vassals called for 
military service. (In France, the ban 
is the part of the population liable 
for such service.) Since they did n6t 
always readily respond, ban came to 
mean the curse put upon the disobedient. 
In its form banish (Fr. bannir, ban- 
niss — ), it meant to proclaim as a^ 
outlaw, whence (It. bandito) bandit. 
From the idea of the ban as that which 
was for general use (e.g. the bannal 
mill, the lord's mill, where all his serfs 
must grind), for everybody's use, came 
the sense of the adj. banal, common- 
place, trite. The original sense is pre- 
served in the expression marriage 
banns. To abandon is short for Fr. 
mettre a bandon, to put under (an- 
other's) control, hence, to give up. 

In the early stages, when ban still 
meant an edict, a law, there developed 
(L. contra, against; Sp. contrabando) 
the adjective then noun contraband. 

There is also a word ban (Pers., 
lord), title of the viceroy in certain 
east Europ^^a i countries : Croatia, dis- 
tricts of Hungary. 

See ban. 

See peach. 

See neighbor. 

bandit, banish. 
See ban. 

See bhang. 


This word is a corruption of 
baluster, influenced by OEng. ban, to 
stop, since it stops one from falling. 
Baluster is a roundabout word, com- 
monly said to be drawn from the re- 
semblance between the little columns of 
the balustrade and the flower of the 
pomegranate : from Gr. balaustion, 
pomegranate flower. But the rows of 



portholes, or loopholes with pillars be- 
tween, for the cross-bow archers on 
the medieval galleys, were LL. bali- 
starioe, whence It. balestriera — possibly 
from balla, ball, missile — but doubtless 
influencing the form of the word 
baluster. Remember this as you slide 
down the banister! 

See pan. 


This word seems to have come from 
similar forms both north and south: 
AS. banke, from bene; and LL. bancus. 
Its original sense was something flat, 
like a shelf. Applied to earth, this 
gives us the bank of a stream, and 
embankment. Through carpentry, it be- 
carae our bench. The Lombard money- 
changers (perhaps also those ' chased 
from an earlier temple) used to sit with 
the foreign moneys on a bench before 
them; hence a bank is a place where 
money is handled. If ruffians (or 
other causes) broke the changer's 
bench (It. banca rotta, broken, whence 
Fr. banqueroutte) it is likely that he 
is not solvent, but bankrupt. Note that 
Eng. restored the p, from L. rumpere, 
rupt~, break (cp. discuss) —which gives 
us many words, from rupture and 
rumpus to interrupt (L. inter, be- 
tween) ; eruption (L. e, from ex, out) ; 
and corruption (L. cor, from com, al- 
together), originally a religious term. 
L. rumpere, to break, to burst, is 
echoic in origin, akin to the onomato- 
poetic rumble; the past participle, 
rupt~, captures in sound " the comple- 
tion of the act. 

From the little benches spread for a 
feast (LL. bancus, whence It. diminu- 
tive banchetta, whence Fr. banquette) 
comes Eng. banquet. Eng. bantling, 
youngster, is via G. Bankling, bastard 
{cp. cotvard), from G. Bank, bench: 
conceived on a bench. (Perhaps the 
prelimmary dallying gave us banter.) 
The quack that hawked his wares, with 
jokes and juggling, while standing on 
a bench was It. montambanco, from 
tnonta in banco, mount on bench, whence 
Eng. mountebank. Cp. somersault. 

•See bank. 



See ban. 

See bank. 


As one might exp«ct, the word for 
woman (q.v.) was widespread in Aryan 
tongues : OHG. quena; Qjth. quino; Gr. 
gyne; Olr. ben; Gael, bean; AS. 
cwene — whence Eng. quean. (AS. 
cwen, wife, gives us the nobler queen.) 
The Gr. gyne gives us gynecology, and 
the words ending in — gynous ; e.g., 
androgynous ; cp. sarcophagus. From 
Ir. bean sidhe, woman of the fairies, 
we have banshee. 

banter, bantling. 
See bank. 


See anacampserote ; Whitsunday. 


This word may indicate urban scorn 
of bumpkins unshaved, from L. barbch 
rus, bearded. The conservative Gate, 
however, attacked the Roman custom of 
snaving as foreign, and effeminate. 
We are told that Alexander the Great 
had his Greek soldiers shaved so that 
opponents could not grasp them by the 
beard. But the word barbarian may be 
a scornful imitation ("bar-bar") of the 
sounds made by outlanders. Similarly 
Hottentot and Tartar; cp. tatterde- 
malion. The notion of stammering is 
related to these soimds ; and perhaps 
the natives trying to learn the language 
of their conquerors hemmed and 

A barbarism is an error in language, 
or a rudeness in speech, such as might 
characterize an outsider. In the middle 
ages, barbary meant heathendom; then, 
the Barbary Coast of North Africa 
(though this sense is influenced by the 
Arab. Berber, apparently from the old 
Phoenician name of the region). 

See barbarian. 


This pleasant festivity, also the verb 
for the kind of cooking, was originally 
an American Indian name for a stick set 
on two uprights, for spitting the animal 
to be roasted. The Spanish found it in 
Haiti, called it barbacoa, the Fr. spelled 
it babracot when they found it in Guiana. 
Since the entire cinimal is often hung 
to be cured or roasted, some French 



(humorists, no doubt) derive the word 
from Fr. barbe a queue, beard to tail ; 
this is, of course, the wrong cue. 

The word cue, as in pigtail and billiard 
cue, is from Fr. queue, from L. cauda, 
the caudal appendage ; cp. bible; cue. 


This is not, as the word might sug- 
gest, a compound, bar — gain. While it 
has been traced to a LL. barcaniare, to 
haggle, some think this word in turn 
is related to barca; a bargain, there- 
fore, was originally something brought 
on a bark, or vessel, from far coun- 
tries to your door. 


See element. 


See embargo. The bark of a tree is 

probably related to the birch, AS. birce, 

be ore; the bark of a dog is related to 

barki, windpipe, and probably via OE. 
brecan, to break, from the suddenness of 
the cry. 


This word ( ? f rcMn Teut. bara, bread 
-|- llys, plant ; though the suffix may 
be the more frequent lie, like), al- 
though originally an adjective, as in 
barleycorn, is cogn. with L. far, com. 
The AS. bara-ern, barley-place, chang- 
ing through berern and bern, became 
our modem barn. Perhaps related is 
AS. bear, our beer. To corn, as with 
corned beef, means to preserve with 
salt in large grains, the size of com 
kemels. And jerked beef is not from 
to jerk, a variation of yerk, but from 
Sp., from South American charqui, 
dried in long strips. It was first in 
Eng. called jerkin beef, as though of 

Corn is from OTeut. kurnom, grain, 
from the Aryan form grnom, from the 
verb ger, gr-, to wear down. Hence a 
grain of sand, a worn down particle. 
The slang corny may be from the "Rube" 
greenhorn of the corn-belt (section of 
the U. S. A. where corn is grown) ; but 
Burton Rascoe suggests it is at least in- 
fluenced, by It. came, flesh, in the sense 
of cheap meat. 

See barley. 



There are two different words hidden 
in this ; neither can be traced farther 
back than the middle ages, where they 
take the same form: LL. bamuc (mascu- 
line), bernaca (feminine), of which ber- 
nacle, barnacle, is a diminutive. 

(1) The first barnacle, from the naascu- 
line form, was a bit, or a pinch placed 
on the nose of a restive horse, esp. to 
quiet it while it was being shoed. There 
was also an instrument of human torture 
in this wise ; and some conjecture that 
this sense is derived from Saracen prac- 
tices, from Pers. baran-dan, to squeeze. 
In a milder growth, pince-nez (Fr., pinch- 
nose) spectacles are called barnacles. 

(2) The second, feminine barnacle is 
a wild goose ; and with it etymologists 
have gone on a wild goose chase in- 
deed. For there is the barnacle shell-fish, 
found esp. on logs along shore and on 
ships' bottoms (whence a man one can- 
not get rid of is called a bar>iacle.). And 
this shell-fish thrusts from its valves long 
feathery appendages, so that through the 
middle ages and after (Campion in his 
History of Ireland; Florio, in the 16th 
c.) it was believed to give birth to a 
waterfowl, thence called the barnacle 
goose. Max Muller, an ardent chaser, 
suggests that the diminutive bernacula 
might be a variant of pcrnacula, from 
perna, a shellfish, and that this was con- 
fused and combined with hibernicula, the 
little (goose) from Hibernia, where the 
barnacle goose was found. There's a lot 
that's blamed on the Irish ! 


Existing now only as a proper name 
(e.g., Barnard College, Columbia Uni- 
versity, New York), this once labeled an 
important figure of the underworld, the 
decoy (q.v.). It existed also as bernard, 
and is from Eng. berncr, feeder of the 
hounds, huntsman, from Celt, brann, bran, 
-\- the derogatory — ard; cp. coward. The 
berner was the hunter who waited along 
the track an animal was expected to take, 
with extra hounds ; hence barnard, a lurk- 
ing member of the gang. According to 
that expert on cozenage, Robert Greene, 
a gang required four members, a taker 
up, a verser, a barnard, and a rutter. 

To cozen is from It. cozzonare, to 
train horses; hence (Florio) to act like 
a crafty knave; that the profession has 
changed little is shown by the similar 
shift in the meaning of jockey. (The 
word jockey was first a diminutive of 
Jock, the Scot, form of Jack; cp. jack- 




The popularity of theatrical road 
companies in the latter half of the 
19th c. exhausted the halls ; in England 
and America, the large bams of es- 
tates were used as playhouses. More 
recently, the summer theatre has revived 
the use of barns, usually permanently 
remodeled. Barnstormer was also ap- 
plied, after World War I, to aviators 
that hired a bam near a smooth pas- 
ture-field, and took sightseers into the 


From a LL. baro (of origin un- 
known) meaning man, baron was ap- 
plied to the King's men, then to the 
Great Barons, or those men summoned 
to Parliament ; hence, a lord. Baronet 
(dimin., a young or lesser baron) was 
applied to the gentlemen summoned to 
the House of Lords by Edward III. 
Fielding uses baronet for a oaron of 
beef : see sirloin. 

See embargo. 

See Appendix II. 

base, baseball. 

See bazooka. 

Ir is suggested that baseball was car- 
ried oyer from the earlier (15th c.) game 
of prisoners' -base. This was originally 
prisoners' -bars, which through careless 
enunciation lost the r (similarly the fish 
bass was earlier barse, from AS baers. 
The musical bass is from It. basso, low, 

See abe3fance. 

basil, basilica, basilisk. 
See bazooka, church. 

See basinet. 

basinet, basnet, bassinet, bassinette. 

This abode of peace (except for cry- 
ing spells ! ) has a warlike ancestry. 
OFr. bassinet, helmet, is a diminutive 
of Fr. bassin, basin. Bassinette is cor- 
rupted, as though from the same source, 
from Fr. bercelonnette, diminutive of 
Fr. berceaU, cradle. This is from bercer, 
to rock, originally to swing like a 
batterinjSr-ram, from L. berbex from 



verve X, battering-ram. Rockabye baby, 
and don't bump your head against a 

Baby's cradle from helmet; helmet 
from bowl ! But basin itself is prob- 
ably from OFr. bacin from LL. bac- 
chinutn, bowl, from L. bacca, baca, 
berry — which it resembles. Thus words 
take shape ! 

basis, bas-relief, bass. 
See bazooka. 

bassinet, bassinette. 
See basinet. 

See bazooka. 

See coward. 

baste, bastille, bastinado, bastion, 
bat, bate, baton. 
See bazooka. 

See ache. 

bath, bathe, bathetic, bathos, bathy- 
See apathy. 

battalion, battle, battlement, batter. 
See abate. 


Whistler has made a painting of the 
Battersea Bridge. This does not lead 
to a place the sea batters, but to an 
island, once known as Peter's Eye, 
Peter's Island, from the adjacent Abbey 
of St. Peter at Westminster. This is 
one of many examples of folk-corrup- 
tion ; another is the old tavern The 
Bag o' Nails, from The Bacchanals. 

battery, battology. 
See abate. 


This word, direct from the Fr., yields 
roundabout relations. It is from the 
verb bavader from OFr. baver, from 
bave, an imitative word that meant both 
babble, and the slobbery saliva that ac- 
companies the ba-ba-babble of babes. The 
guard against this, a bib (from OFr. 
biberon, feeding-bottle, from L. bibere, 
to drink; whence also Eng. imbibe) was 
OFr. baviere; from this it was applied — 


in Eng., as beaver— to the lower part of 
the face-guard of a helmet. Thus, speak- 
ing of the ghost, Horatio tells Hamlet 
(I,ii,230) they saw his face; "he wore 
his beaver up." L. bibere developed later 
noun forms, bibera, biberaticum ; whence 
OFr. beivre and buverage, whence Eng. 
bever, surviving only in the dialect sense 
of a. between-meals nibble, and the still 
widespread beverage. 

The animal beaver is one of the com- 
monest Aryan names : OE. befor; OTeut. 
bebru; L. fiber; O Aryan bhebhru, re- 
duplicated from bhru. brown: the brown 


See brawl. 

bay. . . 

Several words of different origin 
have culminated in this English form. 
OFr. baie, from L. baca, berry; cp. 
bonnet; gives us &ay-tree, bay-rum, feay- 
berry (which is thus a reduplication). 
Applied to the berries of the laurel 
tree, this results in the bays of the 
conqueror: his wreath or garland, then, 
his fame. Shortened from &ay-antler 
(the second branch of a stag's horn) 
bay is from OFr. bes, second; the 
French and Italians still cry Bis! when 
we call Encore! From OFr. bai, from 
L. badius, reddish brown, comes the 
bay horse; the feminine plural of this, 
baies, became the name of a coarse 
doth, baize. From the LL. baia. an 
indentation of the sea; comes the bay 
of water; the Bay State (Massachu- 
setts) ; the fcay-window. This sense is 
mingled with that of the opened mouth, 
for which see abeyance. Cp. antler. 


See Appendix II. 


The rocket-projectile gun was named 
from its resemblance to the "musical" 
instrument, by Major Zeb Hastings of 
the U. S. Army, 1943; they both are 
made of straight tubing, open at both 
ends, and, adds Bob Bums in a letter 
to me, "both have a more or less 
devastating effect." Bob invented the 
bazooka in Arkansas in 1905, when he 
found two pieces of gas pipe that fit 
one over the other, and used them as 
a trombone. The name is a boy's end- 
ing tacked on to the slang word for 
loud talk, bazoo; they say of a boaster, 
"He blows his bazoo too much." 


A toy noise-maker of the 1880's was 
called a kazoo. 

There is probably, however, a sug- 
gestion of the old bassoon, of somewhat 
the same shape and depth of tone, 
from It. bassone, low, whence Eng. 
base and basset; from L. bassus, low, 
from L. and Gr. basis, pedestal, foot, 
whence Eng. basis and base, from Gr. 
bainein, to step. As being at the bot- 
tom, or to be stepped on, base is used 
in compounds such as baseboard and — 
originally home base — baseball, q.v. 

In biology there are many compounds 
with basi—; but basil, the plant, is 
from Gr. basilikos, royal (sovereign 
remedy), from Gr. basileus, king. The 
Gr. basilike stoa, the royal portico 
where court was held, hence the court 
(or basilika oikia, royal dwelling), was 
shortened to Eng. basilica. The Gr. 
basiliskos, kinglet, diminutive of basi- 
leus, was applied to that imaginary king 
of the reptile world, the basilisk, pic- 
tured with a crown-like mark on its 

From L. bassus via Fr. bas, low (as 
in Eng. bas-relief; It. basso, low -\- re- 
lievo from rilievare, to raise), meaning 
first low in place, then low in quality, 
comes Eng. base, mean. The faunal 
region of the deep sea is the bassalia 
(Gr. halia, assembly). 

The fish bass, however, is common 
Teut., ME. barse from AS. baest; cog- 
nate with bristle, f.-om ME. brustel, 
diminutive of AS. byrst, brush. The 
trees, bass, is a corruption of bae.<it, 
inner bark, also common Teut., which 
has also given us Eng. bast and the 
verb baste, the inner bark fibers being 
used for this coarse sewing. 

This leads us to another trail, being 
linked to OFr. bastir, to put together, 
to build; thence Fr. and Eng. bastion, 
the fortifications bastiment and bas- 
tillion, and the tower, bastille, later 
(from its use for the purpose) a pri- 
son. Best known of such places is the 
Paris prison, the Bastille, destroyed by 
the populace in 1789, on July 14th; 
thence the French Independence Day. 

Baste, to beat, is probably originally 
imitative (of the sound of the blow, or 
of the breath with the effort), fo'" it 
exists widely : Sw. basa, to beat with 
a stick; OFr. batre; Sp. bastonada 
whence Eng. bastinado; perhaps It. 
basta, Enough ! ; LL. batere from L. 
batuere, to beat. This is the same 
word as baste in cooking, from OFr. 
basser, to soak (note that soak also 



has the slang sense — to deal a less 
heavy blow being to sock). To lam- 
baste adds OE. lam from ON. lemja, 
to lame. Beat itself is common Teut., 
AS. beatan. From this source are also 
Fr. and Eng. baston and Fr. and Eng. 
baton, with which to beat time, and 
via AS. batt, the baseball bat. 

From L. batuere via OFr. batre, 
comes Eng. bate, to beat down, hold 
back (bated breath), hence reduce, de- 
duct; whence also rebate, which first 
meant to beat back, then to beat dull, 
to blunt (as rebated spears in her- 
aldry) ; hence to diminish or deduct ; 
and abate, q.v. to beat down, hence 
hold back, lessen, as fans think Bums 
should never do with the bazooka. 


See fetus. 


See rat. 

See inscrutable. 


This word (aphetic for ibed, OE. 
gebed) meant prayer; to tell one's 
beads was to count one's prayers. Then 
it was transferred to the perforated 
balls strung together, the rosary, with 
which one kept track of the number of 
prayers. Cp. forbid. 


Early in folk symbolism occurs the 
idea of the fire implicit in the wood 
(of which the world is made). Hence 
it is natural that the Bible pillar of 
fire (L. columna) should have been 
translated by AS. beam, tree, whence 
Eng. beam — at once the wood and the 
ray of light, sunbeam. Beam (Du. 
boom; G. Baum, tree) is a doublet of 
boom, of a ship. Boom, the sotmd, is 
an imitative word. A boom in busi- 
ness, booming, is probably a combina- 
tion of the sound and the nautical 
phrase "to come booming", under full 
sail. "On the beam", just right, is a 
figure from the way in which a plane 
lands by light-control. 


See berth. 


The birds and the beasts were there. 
The current use of this word is to 


separate the four-footed kind from other 
members of the animal kingdom (as dis- 
tinct from the vegetable and the mineral), 
from birds, fishes, insects, and men. But 
it has had its ups and downs. It is by 
way of OFr. beste from L. bestia; and 
first appeared in Eng. to translate L, 
animal. Before that, the general OE. 
word was deor, deer, which became re- 
stricted. Now, L. animal has come into 
Eng. in the general sense, and beast has 
been limited as indicated above, or still 
more narrowly to the wild and fierce 
varieties of animals ; hence also bestial, 
which first was a general term for 
domestic animals, then figuratively was 
applied to men, attributing to them ac- 
tions that slander the beasts. 


See bazooka ; beetle. 

See Cambridge. 


Those that see a connection between 
beauty and goodness {good was once 
spelt God) may go beyond the usual 
dictionary, which traces the word, 
through ME. bealte, beute, to L. bellus, 
beautiful. For bellus is from benulus, 
dim. of benus, from bonus, good. 
Hence the beautiful and the fc^n^ficial 
are etymologically linked. On the other 
hand, it should be remembered that the 
L. bellum means war. Good is from 
AS. god, gath, gather; hence it referred 
to that which was selected as fitting. 
What you gather are your goods. 


See bavardage. 


This was a common Teut. idea, early 
used as a place to sleep ; but also as a 
garden bed. Its L. cognate is fod, the 
root of L. fodere, to dig ; whence the 
technical Eng. term fodient, a burrowing 
animal — as a rodent is a gnawing animal, 
from rodere, to gnaw ; cp. graze. This 
suggests that early man made his bed in 
dug-out caves or lairs. The garden bed 
has probably no connection with this 
early sense of digging, but is figurative 
from the use or shape. 

A bedstead is a (steady) place for the 
bed, from AS. stede, place. Thus I'n- 
stead of means in place of. The home- 
stead was the home place, hence farm or 
village. This is common Teut., G. Statt, 



place, Stadt, town : cognate with stand; 
see tank. And steady, steadfast, mean 
keeping to one place. 


See deck. 


See distaff. 


This is an Eng. corruption of Beth- 
lehem, and before the 17th c. was used 
of the city in Jerusalem. But, par- 
ticularly, it was a short name for the 
hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, in 
London, founded in 1247 but since 1547 
used as a state lunatic asylum, a mad- 
house. Hence, the confusion and noise 
one might expect from a group of 


See bed. 


See mealy-mouthed. 


See mutton. 


The Heb. Baal, Bel, means god. The 
Bible (2 Kings,\,2) speaks of a Lord 
of the dwelling, Baalzehul. In deliberate 
mockery of idols, this is corrupted 
{Matthew, -x^lS) into Beelzebub, Lord 
of Flies. Belial, esp. sons of Belial, 
(1 Samuel ^\,\2) is retained in transla- 
tion, as though a similar god ; it is 
actually, from Heb. heliyaal, worthless- 
ness, from beli, without -\- yaal, use. 

See barley ; drink. 


In case you do not know, there is 
an Eng. word beetle, meaning hammer, 
from OE. bietel, related to AS. beatan, 
to beat, cp. baste. The insect is, from 
AS. bitela, biter, from bitan, to bite. 
Beetle-browed means merely, browed 
like the beetle (with overhanging fore- 

befool, befoul. 

See rat. 


This verb reverses the usual time 
order, being formed from an earlier 



noun, beggar. Lambert le Begue (the 
stammerer) was a pious monk; after 
him was established an order of nuns 
(in Liege, in the 12th c.) called be- 
guines. Shortly afterwards, in the Neth- 
erlands, a male order was established 
(L. begardus, Fr. begard). As many 
of them were idle mendicants, the term 
took on its present meaning. See bigot. 

See commence. 


See Appendix II. 

See bigot. 


See half. 

behave, behavior. 

See carry. 

See leviathan. 


See alkahest. 


This word has gradually moved from a 
very active sense to a mere receptivity. 
It was common Teut., OE. bihaldan, to 
hold by, to restrain, retain, hold fast to. 
From this sense it came to mean to be 
attentive to, to consider. From this (in 
English alone) it developed the sense of 
to look at, to watch ; finally it lapsed to 
its present usual sense, to take in through 
the eyes, to see. To be beholden has kept 
the earliest sense, of attached (by obli- 
gation) to a person. Oblige, obligation, 
and obligatory are themselves from L. 
ob (ob, in the way of; hence it may mean 
either towards or against) -f- ligare, 
ligat — , to bind ; cp. legible. 


See behold. 

See avast. 


This is one of the words that have 
degenerated. Literally, it is from Fr. 
belle dame, beautiful lady. It was used 
in early Eng. as a polite term for 
grandmother; but as politeness passed 
out of the language, it came to mean 
any old woman, then an ugly hag. 



Though it now means a bell tower, 
originally belfry had nothing to do with 
bells. It comes through OFr. belfrei, 
from berfrei, fion. OHG. berg^ castle, 
guard {cp. Luther's hymn, Em ftstt 
Burg ist unser Gott, A mighty fortress 
is our Lord) + /rid, peace. To guard 
peace there was built, in medieval times, 
a siege tower, moved against the walls 
of a beleaguered town. As this grew 
out of use, the term was applied to any 
tower ; since most towers have a bell, 
to a bell tower. Association with the 
word bell may have influenced the 
change from r to /, though such a 
shift (dissimilation) occurs elsewhere 
(e.g. pilgrim, from Fr. and Prov, pele- 
grin; cp. saunter. The r remains in 
Sp. peregrino and Eng. peregrination; 
cp. "Peregrine Pickle," by Tobias Smol- 

See Beelzebub. 

See furlough. 

See foolscap. 

See demijohn. 

See foolscap. 


See supercilious. 


5"^^ foolscap. 

bellows, belly. 
See pylorus. 

See bank. 

benedick, benedict, Benedictine, 

Though the second spelling is more 
frequent, this name for a married man 
is from Benedick, in Shakespeare's 
Much Ado About Nothing, who begins 
the play by swearing never to get mar- 
ried, and spends the rest of it in the 
process of breaking that vow. The 
name Benedict is L. bene, well 4" dicere, 
diet — , to speak; see zvin; cp. verdict. 


The Benedictine order was founded by 
St. Benedictus, d. 543; see drink. 

See defeat 

See mal — . 

See win. 

See rat. 


Now used mainly in the passive (be- 
reaved: "I was robbed!"), this means to 
snatch away: AS. bereafian, be-, bi-, a 
prefix making a verb active + reafian, 
to rob, whence Eng. reave. This is com- 
mon Teut. Goth, (bi)raubon gives us 
Eng. rob. Du. rooven, whence roover, 
led to Eng. rover, who was first a pirate. 
The sense of wanderer (as pirates be- 
came fewer) developed from the quite 
different word Eng. rove, from OF. 
rouer, to prowl (Fr. roui) from L. ro- 
tare, rotat-, to rotate, go around; cp. ro- 
dent. There is also the influence of an 
obsolete rave, to wander, sometimes con- 
fused with the present Eng. rave; cp. 


See Appendix II. 


This is taken directly from Cingalese 
beri, weakness ; the doubling makes it 
stronger — that is, indicates a greater de- 
gree of weakness. 

See peach. 


The Scandinavian hero Berserk (ON. 
berserkr, bear sark, bearskin: Bums 
in Tarn O'Shanter speaks of the cutty 
sark — short shirt — of the young witch) 
had twelve sons, Berserkers, whose vio- 
lence terrified the land. Hence, to go 
berserk; akin to the running amok 
(amuck) of the Malay in frenzy. 


Berth, earlier spelled byrth and birth, 
had the same origin as birth, the bearing 
of children; but the two words developed 
at different times. As might be expected, 
the birth of children came first. Toward 
the end of the 16th c, when commerce 



grew active along the Thames and into 
the far seas, crowding ships had to be 
careful to "bear off" from one another — 
even more so, when suddenly grappling 
irons might swing out and foemen leap 
aboard ; hence ships were required to give 
a wide berth to one another. From this 
probable source, and from the first mean- 
ing of sea-room, came the closer applica- 
tion to room to keep things aboard ship, 
then a place to keep the men, a berth 
for sleeping, as now also on other means 
of locomotion. The verb bear, to carry 
(a burden; a child: borne is now used for 
the first, born for the second : may it 
not be one ! ) is common Teut., cognate 
with L. jerre, which has the same two 
senses. Note also the intransitive use, 
to bear down on, to bear toward, to bear 
off. The NED has ten columns of senses, 
among which it is hard to get one's 
bearings. The animal bear is also com- 
mon Teut. 


See brilliant. 

See element. 


See subsidy. 

See beast. 


See bavardage. 

See trance. 


See assassin. This is also spelled bang. 
To bang, to thump, is common Teut., 
imitative. Linotypers' cant says bang for 
exclamation point. 


See bavardage. 


"The Book." Several of the terms 
for items used in writing show their 
origin in the raw material. Gr. biblos, 
the inner bark of the papyrus, whence 
the diminutive biblion, the rolled sheet 
used in writing. From the L. plural 
biblia, the books, comes our Eng. bible, 
which first meant any volume, then 
what was for many persons the only 
volume, the Bible. From the name for 


the plant itself, Gr. papyros, whence 
L. papyrus, whence Fr. papier, comes 
Eng. paper. Book {q.v.) itself is from AS. 
boc, boece, the beach tree, boards of 
which were used for writing. Similarly, 
the stem or trunk of a tree in L. is 
codex, from caudex (whence It., and 
Eng. music term, coda; also the scienti- 
fic terms caudal and caudate, pertaining 
to or having a tail), whence, from 
the wooden tablets on which they were 
written, Eng. codex and code, a system 
of laws. See liberty ; volume. 

See achieve. 

See forbid. 

See anniversary. 


See monk. 


This word is suggested as a corrup- 
tion of the exclamation By God, applied 
to those that often used it. But it is 
tangled in its history with the religious 
orders of the Beguines and the Beghards 
"and the Bigutts" — all of them origin- 
ally terms of derision. The Begumes 
were women united in piety, in homes 
called beguinages, without the order of 
convents ; their name is probably not 
from the word beg, but from dialect 
Fr. begut, to stammer, with the fem- 
inine — ne or the masculine — ard; there 
is a LL. begardus. Thus they were re- 
ferred to as stammerers, simpletons. 
Remember this when you "begin the 
beguine !" Cp. beg. 

There is another suggestion. From 
Sp. bigote, whiskers, the word may 
have come to mean a fiery fellow, 
hence a zealot. Cp. bizarre. 


See complexion. 


This is a fairly old game; Spenser 
in the 16th c. spelled it balliards, as 
though it were named from the balls. 
It is from Fr. billard, curved stick. 
However, LI., billard, being derived 
from what it strikes, from L. billa, 
from pila, a ball, takes us bacJc to 




The spot along the Thames, in Lon- 
don, where the fishing boats bring 
their catch is called Billingsgate, earlier 
Belin's gate, from Belin, a Icing of 
Britain 23d (??) in line. The coarse 
language of the fishwives there was 
proverbial (Samuel Johnson was a vic- 
tim of it) ; and abusive speech is known 
as billingsgate. It may have been influ- 
enced by O.E. bellan, to bellow. 


See number, 


See macrobian. (Gr. logos, word; then, 
ordered words : the usual suflSx, — logy, 
for a systematized study). 


See bark. 


See berth. 


(This has a different taste, in Eng- 
land, from that in America.) The word 
is Fr. — bis, twice -\- cuit, cooked, from 
cuir. Tlius Zwieback is Du. from zwie, 
two 4" backen, to cook. And there is a 
trade name Triscuit, thrice baked. Cp. 
cloth : drill and twill. 


See element. 


See Appendix II. 

See sarcophagus. 

See beetle. 


The bad taste in your mouth is the re- 
sult of a bite; and bitter is from AS. 
biter, related to bite. When you come 
to "the bitter end", however, there is 
another story. A bitter is a turn of the 
cable or ship's ropes about the bitts, the 
two posts for fastening them. Thus to 
be at the bitter end is to be at the end of 
one's rope — but the bad taste helped make 
the expression seem appropriate. 


This word is via Fr. from Sp. and 
Port, bicarro, handsome, brave, perhaps 
*rom the Basque bizarra, beared as a 


sign of a swashbuckler, "bearded like the 
pard" {As You Like It, II,vii,150). Note 
that Sp. hombre de bigote, bearded man, 
similarly meant a spirited fellow — though 
it was by foreigners turned into a term 
of derision ; cp. bigot. From the rousta- 
bout, high-handed ways of such as Cyrano 
and "the three musketeers," the word 
bizarre shifted from dashing, courageous, 
to its present sense of extravagant, fan- 


Persons that say things are as dif- 
ferent as black and white might be 
surprised at how alike these two are. 
Both were associated in the early mind 
with absence of color : black is AS. 
blaec; but AS. blac is zvhite. Whence 
Eng. bleach, from AS. blaecan, to make 
white, from blac. Hence also bleak, 
pale. Blanch, blank (empty, white 
sheet), and blanket are of the same 
origin, vid Fr. blanc, white, and 
blanchir, to whiten. The word white 
is also common Teut., AS. hvuit, cog- 
nate with AS. hwaete, wheat. 

See ballot. 


In the lord's retinue, after "the 
weavers and embroiderers" marched the 
black guard of the spits and iron pots 
and other kitchenry — so called from the 
color of their utensils, and their OAvn. 
From the characteristics attributed to 
the brawny kitchen knaves by their 
cleaner fellows (Tennyson illustrates 
the tendency, in Sir Kay of his Gareth 
and Lynette) comes the present mean- 
ing, the pronunciation being shortened 
to blaggard. 

See mail. 


See blatherskite. 

See badger. 


This first meant to scold, as often 
one chides before seeing who is really 
to blame. It is from OFr. blasmer, 
from L. blasphemare, from Gr. blas- 
phemein, to speak ill, from Gr. blapsis, 
damage -f pheme, speech. Its Eng. 
doublet is blaspheme, which came into 




the language later and more directly, 
by way of religion.. 

blanch, blank, blanket. 
See black. 


See ballyhoo. 

See blame. 


This Scottish word has become popu- 
lar in the U. S., also as bletherskate. 
it is from ON. blathr, to talk non- 
sense, related to blast and blow, from 
AS. blaeddre, bladder, windbag, -|- skite, 
excrement. The first element, blather, 
blether, blither, has given us blithering 
idiot ; the second has shortened into the 
slang cheap skate. (Skate, the fish, 
is from ON. skata, which also meant 
magpie — both from the long pointed 
tail. Skate on ice is, from earlier 
scales, from OFr. escache, stilts ; Fr. 
echasse, wooden leg. Weekley says the 
first skates were shank-bones ; whence 
Fr. patiii, skate ; patte, claw, whence 
Eng. patten, used for walking above 

bleach, bleak. 

See black. 


This is a bloody word, directly from 
OE. bledsian, bloedsian, from AS. blod, 
blood; it meant to consecrate with 
blood, in sacrifice to the gods. By a 
mistaken association with bliss, from 
AS. bliths, it was used when the Eng- 
lish became Christians, to translate the 
L. benedicere, to speak well of, to 
praise ; whence its present meanings. 
The Fr. word blesser still means to 


This is a nonrigid or limp dirigible 
(short for dirigible balloon; the first 
balloons just drifted with the wind), 
smaller than the Zeppelin (named for 
Graf von Zeppelin, Count von Zeppelin, 
the designer, who died in 1917). There 
were two types of the small nonrigid 
balloon : the A limp, and the B limp : 
the A limp was unsuccessful ; the Blimp 

First came the balloon, from It. bal- 
lone, augmentative of It. balla, ball. Then 
the dirigible balloon (L. dirigere, direct — , 

to direct; whence also Eng. direction; cp. 
royal) ; this might be either rigid or 

H. L. Mencken credits the word blimp 
to a man standing near the aircraft de- 
signer Horace Short, in 1914. They were 
trying to think of a name for the craft, 
when Short called for a blunch ("a drink 
half-way between breakfast and lunch") 
— whereupon the officer nearby said : 
"Call it a blimp!" Our word for a mid- 
morning meal is brunch; cp. dismal. 

See sandblind. 

blindfold, blind-man's-buff. 

See buff. 

See bless. 

5"^^ blatherskite. 


It used to be the thunderbolts of 
Zeus (or Jove, or of the Lord Je- 
hovah) that wrought the damage; we 
know better now : if you hear the 
thunder, you are safe. Thus a swift 
descent from the sky is as a lightning 
flash ; and the Germans called their 
swift attack, from earth and sky — 
bombers, paratroopers, etc. — a Blitzkrieg, 
lightning-war. When Santa Claus went 
through the sky on a jollier errand, 
his sleigh was drawn by reindeer, the 
first pair of which were named Donner 
and Blitzen, Thunder and Lightning. 


We think of a bloated person as puffed 
up, swollen, yet in the 17th c. it was 
remarked that "herrings shrink in bloat- 
ing." Two senses ^re closely intertwined. 
ME. blote is from ME. blotne, to soften 
by wetting. ME. blout, bloivt, meant soft, 
flabby. But Hamlet looked upon "the 
blowt king" — and editors have spelled the 
word bloat; wherefrom all latfer users of 
the word (except for bloated herring, 
which is still Steeped in brine : marinated; 
cp. lapis lazuli) have taken this turn, as 
swollen with self-indulgence. 

See bless ; goodbye. 

See flower. 





These baggy garments are always in 
the plural, like the more masculine 
trousers. They were made popular by 
Mrs. Amelia Jenks Bloomer, who was 
a strong supporter of Susan B.Anthony 
and the mid- 19th c. American drive 
for women's rights. Her name is pos- 
sibly connected with the blossom and 
bloom and blowth of a flower — all of 
which come from a common Teut. 
stem bid, to blow. From the beauty of 
flowers in bloom, the term came to be 
applied to the freshest, fairest mo- 
ment of anything. (Trousers seems to 
come, by way of OE. trouse, from 
trews, from OFr. trebus, from LL. 
tibraci, which Isidore in the 7th c. 
said came from tibia, shin — we still 
call the shinbone the tibia— and braccae, 
breeches. ) 

blot, blotch. 

Both of these words exist only in Eng., 
with no related forms outside. Blot was 
first used in the 14th c, it may have 
grown from spot (a rather common Teut. 
form, ON. spotti, speck, perhaps related 
to L. spuere, sput — , to spit ; whence Eng. 
sputum). A number of Eng. words in- 
dicating force (or usually evil) begin 
with bl; e.g., blow, blast, blight (the 
origin of blight is also unknown), blem- 
ish. A blotch, which first appeared about 
the 17th c, may be related to patch or 
botch (ME. bocchen, to patch; the noun 
botch, at first unrelated, comes via OFr. 
boce, ulcer, from a common Romance 
root. It. boccia, Sp. bocha, LL. bocia, 
ball, whence Eng. boss took the sense 
of knob, as on a shield; Eng. botch, of 
pimple) ; it implies a more widespread 
stain or fault than blot. 

decorated with women of beauty and 
wit, were copied in England, especially 
at Montagu House, London. There, 
about 1750, Benjamin Stillingfleet wore 
blue worsted stockings instead of the 
formal black silk. At once the per- 
sons attending these gatherings, es- 
pecially the women with pretense to 
learning, were dubbed bluestockings. 
With the change in the status of wo- 
men, the term has lapsed into history. 


This wOfll is probably neither from 
blunder, in that it usually failed to 
hit the target, nor (as is more plausibly 
suggested) thunder-box, from G. Don- 
nerbuchse, from Donner, thunder -|- 
buchse, box, gun. We may draw a 
cue from arquebus, or harquebuss, 
which is from MHG. hakenbiihse, from 
haken, hook + buschse, so called be- 
cause it was fixed on a hook when 
fired. (The spelling of arquebus is 
influenced by It. archibuso, from arco, 
bow -|- bu^o, hole, barrel.) Bhtnderbus 
is earlier plantierbus, from L. plantare, 
to fix : it was fixed on a rest before 
being discharged. 


This used to be called a puff, a gust 
of wind to help a book sail along; 
and sales were blown high by the 
gentle art of puffery. For these more 
vigorous days of gales for best sellers, 
Gelett Burgess, about 1914, invented the 
word blurb. He defined it as "a sound 
like a publisher;" perhaps it is echoic 
jn origin. 


See fourflusher. 

See flower. 


See red. 


This story is not based on Henry 
VIII of England, though perhaps on 
Gilles de Retz, of Brittany, killed for 
his murder of six wives, in 1450. From 
the old tale, the name has been used 
generally; note that the secret room 
into whith the wife must not look is 
111 line with the notion of taboo, q.v. 


The famous French literary salons, 


See Adonis. 


This is a common Teut. word, mean- 
ing plank ; hence, the side of a ship : 
AS. bord; from this source came LL. 
bordura, a margin, whence Eng. border. 
Hence starboard {steer-board) and 
larboard (left, ? from Swed. ladda, 
load, whence ? Eng. lade) refer to 
sides of the ship; as does overboard. 
To board a vessel first meant to come 
to her side — as was the method in 
sea-warfare : the two vessels came to 
one another's sides, hooked on the 
grappling-irons ; then the soldiers leapt 
on board! Cp. accost; cutlet. A 




boarder — a much later word — is one 

who gets his (bed and) board (table- 

board; hence, the food on it) at a 

See board. 


This is a number of words. One meant 
a knob or cluster ; hence, a short bunch 
or curl of hair, as on a bob-tailed horse, 
a bob-wig, or a bob-haired girl. Hence, 
anything short. Also, a blow and — per- 
haps as a result of the blow — a motion 
up and down. (The word is piobably 
imitative in origin. A bobbin (Fr. 
bobine, 6rigin unknown) was a kind of 
pin, then a cylinder, used in weaving; 
from it come bobbin-lace and bobbinet. 
Bobby pins for (bobbed) hair thus de- 

Bob is also by assimilation from Rob, 
short for Robert; see bobby. Appendix 

A bob-sled is made of two short ones. 
The bob-white and the bobolink (some- 
times Bob o' Lincoln) are named from 
their call. 


See bodkin. 


This is another word with two back- 
grounds. In the sen^e in which Ham- 
let says a man could his own quietus 
make, with a mere bodkin, it is from 
Welsh bidogyn, diminutive of biodog, 
dagger. But it occurs in the phrase 
Odds bodkins, where it is euphemistic 
for God's bodikins, God's little body. 
In parts of England still, a thin per- 
son squeezed between two others (to 
make room at a table or in a cart) is 
called a bodkin. Body is a common 
Teut. word, AS. bodig; and bodice is 
just (a pair of) bodies, the word 
body being used in the 17 c. for the 
tight part of a dress, above the waist- 


See bodkin. 

bogus, bogy. 

See insect. 

See Appendix II. 

See drink. 


This word referred to the party that 
took over power when the Soi>iets 
(qv.) came into being. It is from 
Russ. bolshinstvo, majority, from bolshe, 
more. Opposed to the bolsheviki were 
the mensheviki, those in the minority. 


See poltroon. 

5"^^ bombardier. 


This word, though reapplied to avia- 
tors, was used as early as 1560, of 
the man that fired the bombard or 
early cannon. It is derived from Eng. 
bomb (Fr. bombe. It. bomba), from L. 
bombus, from Gr. bombos, humming, in 
imitation of the sound it makes before 
going off. Both bombilate and bombi- 
nate (corrupted from L. bombitare) 
are Eng. sesquipedalian terms for to 
buzz. The same imitation gives us 
bumblebee and bump; cp. luncheon. 


When one is bombastic, one's dis- 
course is "swollen full of wind" — what 
more recently was called "hot air," 
originally "stuffed with cotton pad- 
ding." For bombast is from OFr. bom- 
bace, cotton padding, from L. bombax, 
from Gr. bombyx, silkworm. Similarly 
fustian, a common word (as the thing 
itself was common) in good Queen 
Bess's glorious days, originally referred 
to a coarse cloth of cotton and flax, 
from OFr. fustaigne, from LL. fusta- 
neus (cloth) from Fostat, Cairo, where 
the cloth was made. Farce (LL. farcire, 
to stuff foods) drew its meaning not 
from inflated speeches, but from the 
interlude stuffed in between the acts 
of a serious drama. 

Thus also burlesque is via the It. ad- 
jective burlesco from L. burla, mockery, 
from L. burra, puff of wool, used figura- 
tively to mean nonsense. 

bombilate. bombinate. 
See bombardier. 


This v/ord (Sp bonanza, fair weather, 
from L. bonus, good) was applied to a 
pleasant calm after a difficult search — 
such as the finding of a gold mine, in 
the U. S. west — from the Bible, Mat- 
thew viii, which tells of the calm after 



Christ rebukes the wind and sea; in 
Sp. "una grande bonanza." And down 
on the Stock Exchange, a good thing 
as a gift brought back the L. word 


See bun. 

bond, bondage. 

See neighbor. 


This jolly burning with which a 
holiday may be celebrated (as on Elec- 
tion Day, before Fire Department regu- 
lations intervened), or at which chops 
or frankfurters are roasted on pic- 
nickings, was originally a much more 
sombre affair. The word is a soften- 
ing of bone-fire; it referred to the 
great pyres of bones of victims of 
the plagues that formerly swept over 
Europe, or of persons burned at the 
stake. In some country places, animal 
bones are still used for burning. Some 
claim, however, that the word is just 
what it seems : bonfire, from Fr. bon, 
good (cheer). There is also suggested 
as a source Dan. bautn, beacon ; Welsh 
ban, high. In any event, the word re- 
placed an earlier AS. bael fire, from 
bael, burning, from Icel. bal, flame; 
whence Eng. bale, harm. 

See bonanza. 


See bible. The relation to beech-irtt, 
however, is challenged by the fact that 
the earliest recorded uses are of boks, 
writing tablets. 


See beam. 


This seems first to have been a noun, 
an early word for gadget. When the 
New York Board of Estimate was 
investigating the use of relief money, 
1935, Robert C. Marshal said the artists' 
project was making "leather crafts, 
three-ply carving, and boondoggles." It 
has been suggested that the word is 
related to Daniel Boone's whittling 
sticks to throw for his pet dog; how 
ever fanciful this may be, it is certain 
that to boondoggle means to be as busy 
as a puppy — doing nothing ; and that the 
relief was a great boon. (In the 18th c, 



tc boon meant to repair public roads; 
and a dogger was a man that went 


See neighbor. 


In the remark "He's a rascal, and a 
good one to boot" the last word is of 
uncertain origin; but cp. butt. If we 
put a comma after "one," however, the 
last word is from AS. bot, profit, 
amends, related to Eng. better (the 
early positive, replaced by good). It 
can be traced to an earh- Aryan form. 
bhud, good. 

There was an old Eng. game (Sam- 
uel Pepys learned it on- Sept. 19, 1660), 
in which the players exchanged articles, 
with an umpire to tell how much each 
should get, to boot. The extra amount 
was contributed by all in advance, and 
kept in a cap, into which the umpire's 
hand was constantly dipping: the game 
was called hand in cap. From it comes 
our handicap, which from the allowance 
has also been applied to the weak- 
ness. From AS. bot, advantage, whence 
boot, comes our bootless errands ; cp. 
sleeveless; bottle. Related is the pirate's 
profit, his booty. The children's shoe, 
or bootie, is from the first word ; there 
was an earlier bottekin. The Fr. hotte, 
and the early Eng. forms bute and 
botte, from LL. botta, suggest that the 
footwear may be related to butt. 

(Pronunciation of booty suggests that, 
though a pirate may confuse booty and 
beauty, not even the most insensitive 
soldier would mistake a cutie for a 
cootie — mispronunciation of duty. New 
York, and other such words is the re- 
sult not of inability but of laziness or 
carelessness. The sound of the city 
may be influenced by the Yiddish Nut 
— pronounced noo — meaning "What of 
it?" or "What next?" The former 
query indicates the state of mind that 
produces the mispronunciation.) 


Long before Prohibition became a 
national mockery, the bootlegger (in 
the mid 19th c.) plied his trade in 
Kentucky and other states. To escape 
the eye of the government agents, 
walking speak-easies of those early days 
used to carry the bottles of (com) 
liquor between their legs and their 
knee-high boots ; hence, bootlegger. In 
the days before the courts permitted the 


sale of James Joyce's Ulysses, the pur- 
veyor of forbidden books came, by 
analogy, to be called a hooklegger. 


See sycophant. 

See boot. 

borax, boron. 

See element. 

See board. 


See Adonis. 

See aurora. 

born, borne. 

See berth. 


See dollar. 


There are three words here. One may 
come from G. boschen, to slope; it refers 
to the lowest, narrowing part of a blast- 
furnace. Then there is the use, perhaps 
from Fr. ebauche, rough sketch, used of 
a swaggering attitude, to cut a bosh. 
Finally there is the Pers. bosh, empty — 
hence as an exclamation, Eng. bosh!, 
worthless. This was spread through the 
popularity of the novel Ayesha (1834), 
by J. J. Morier (whose best-known book 
is Hajji Baba, 1824). Some persons think 
that most etymology is fiddle-de-dee, q.v. 


See strategy. 


Macaulay protested against this spell- 
injr f)f the Bosporus, or ox-ford (Gr. 
poros, ford; cognate with L. portus, 
port, and Eng. firth, forth, ford; Norw. 
fiord; Gr. hous, ox, whence Eng. bo- 
vine) — the place where Jupiter as the 
divine bull swam away with Europa; 
whence Europe, q.v. The English Ox- 
ford, earlier Oxenford, is an easier 
crossing — though probably not from ox 
at all, being corrupted to the more 
familiar form from a still earlier Ousen- 
ford, from Celtic uisg^, water -|- ford ; 
cp. drink : whiskey. Cp. also dollar and 



See blot. This word had several mean- 
ings, of different origins; the boss of a 
job is from Du. baas, master, earlier uncle 
(OHG. basa, aunt). 


See plant. 

See blot. 


This is glass today, but was once 
of the same material as your boot, 
q.v., from L. bota, skin (thick hide). 
Via Fr. and It. botte, from LL. butis, 
buttis, comes Eng. butt, q.v., in the 
sense of cask. A buttery is a place 
where butts are stored, not butter, q.v. 
The diminutive of buttis, LL. butticula, 
whence It. botiiglia and Fr. bouteille, 
led to Eng. bottle, first applied to 
wine-skins. There is no relation to 
the gallant practice of drinking from 
a lady's slipper. 

There are three other paths by which 
bottle came into the language. Probably 
related to butt, as a bump or a lump, 
was OFr. botte, bundle; from its dimin- 
utive, hotel, comes Eng. bottle, meaning 
bundle. In the 16th c. a foolish search 
was described as looking for a needle 
in a bottle of hay — the earlier form of 
hunting in a haystack. The bottle, a 
flower (also bluebottle, etc.) takes its 
name partly from its shape, and partly 
from an OE. bothel, whence also Eng. 
buddlc, a marigold. Finally, a bottle 
used to the 13th c. but now surviving 
only in place-names, .as Harbottle, 
comes from OE. botl from AS. hodl, 
from an old Teut. root bu — , bo — , to 
dwell. Up to the 14th c, bold meant 
a dwelling. This old bo — is not related 
to abode, which gets its meaning of 
dwelling from the sense of resting- 
place, from the verb abide, OE. abidan, 
to remain on, from hide, a common 
Teut. word, OE. hidan, to wait. There 
is also an obsolete abode, extended from 
bode, another common Teut. word (OE. 
hod; OHG. gahot) that first meant to 
command, to tell someone to do some- 
thing. This lost its force, came to 
mean just to tell, hence to announce, 
to warn. It survives in foreboding — 
which many a woman has when her 
man takes to the bottle. 

This was originally the room to which 



miladi might retire when offended her 
sulking or pouting room (Fr. bonder, 
to pout). It is, indeed, related to 
pout (OE. ? putian; Sw. puta, to be 
inflated), with the notion of swelling. 
Hence comes pudding (Fr. boudin, 
hldick- pudding, intestine), which meant 
bowels, then the entrails stuffed, a kind 
of sausage ; the present sense is a 
shortening of pudding-pie. (The Eng. 
p is ^a shift from Rom. b, as in purse, 
ivom^ bursa; see budget. The word may 
be traced to L. botulus, sausage, the 
diminutive of which, botellus, pudding, 
whence OFr. boel, bouel, gives us 
bowel. A roundabout journey!) 


See bow. 


This word, first pronounced boons, was 
used where the early G. used bums, Eng. 
boom; to represent the sound of a heavy 
object. Thus it meant the sound, or the 
blow, of an explosion , hence, the bound- 
ing away. (Similarly the verb bound 
until the 15th c. meant only to resound; 
then to recoil, then to leap. It is prob- 
ably from L. bombiare, to hum, from L. 
bombus, a humming; cp. bombardier.) 
This effect of the sudden jump after a 
loud crash was carried into other mean- 
ings ; hence to bounce (or bound) like a 
ball, to bounce it (as some women 
dance) ; to bounce a man (discharge him 
without warning or ceremony) ; and the 
sense of a bouncing fellow, meaning big, 
bragging, or other large implications 
(note that various words for striking have 
this figurative use: a strapping fellow; 
spanking, thumping, a whopper, .a. bound- 
er, and the like, all imitative in origin, 
ivhop being a stronger form of the imi- 
tative zvhip). Boundary, the limits we set 
when we bound property, the bourn: That 
"undiscovered country from whose bourne 
no traveler returns," as Hamlet solilo- 
quizes — these are traced through OFr. 
bodne, bonne, bundt, from LL. bodna — there lost, th- ugh probably borrowed 
by the Romans from the Celts. The Eng. 
bourne is bv a path that also brings Fr. 
borne, limit, perhaps related to bord, 
border, common Teut. 

bound, boundary, bounder. 

Sec bounce. 


This word first meant a citizen, in the 
exact sense of the inhabitant of a city: 


a freeman ol a burg (Fr. bourgeois, from 
OFr. burgeis, whence also Eng. burgess; 
see dollar) as distinguished from a gen- 
tleman and likewise from a peasant. 
Hence, one of the middle class; hence 
one with the characteristics associated 
therewith. Note that these may be com- 
plimentary, as in the early associations of 
urbane (see neighbor) or the reverse, as 
the point of view sUters. 

See Bosphorus. 


Many of the simplest-seeming words 
have the hardest history to disentangle. 
Bow in all its senses was early, and com- 
mon Teut. The first sense, from OE. 
boga. Da. boug, was anything bent; this 
was first applied to archways, and of 
course to the early weapon. From this, 
somewhat later, came the polite bow of 
greeting and departure; in this, the pro- 
nounciation has changed. But from one 
of the related forms came Eng. bough; 
the first sense of this word was the hu- 
man shoulder (the curve or bend from 
the neck to the elbow) ; in this sense also 
the word was spelled bow. When the 
word shoulder (AS. sculdor) replaced 
this, hough was kept in its (at first fig- 
urative) application to the curve of a 
tree from the trunk ; and bow, as the 
curve at the front of a ship. Cp. branch. 


The Rev. Thomas Bowdler published 
The Family Shakespeare in 1818, ex- 
punging from it, as he observed, "What- 
ever is unfit to be read by a gentle- 
man in a company of ladies." From 
his volume, popular but attacked by 
scholars, his name has become the verb 
for prudish expurgation. 

See pylorus, boudoir. 

bower, Bowery. 

See neighbor. 


See Appendix II. 

bowl, bowling. 

The early word, boll, OE. bolla, 
bud, small sphere, was common Teut. 
Cotton bolls are attacked by a boll-worm 
or boll-wce\'i\. It is from the root bul, 
to swell (as in bulbous and bulb, though 
those liark back to Gr. bolbos, onion) ; 



note also OHG. bolon, to roll. This word 
is retained in some of its senses; but in 
the sense of a spherical vessel it has 
been influenced in spelling by the course 
of Fr. boule, ball, which has become 
Eng. bowl, used in botvling; cp. ball: see 
ninepins. The game is in the plural, 
bowls; but the soup is in the bowl. 


This is another simple word with a 
complicated history. It seems to begin 
in Greece, where the box tree was called 
Gr. Pyxos, in L. bux%is. The church pyx 
is directly from this pyxos; the box was 
at first a small one, used for drugs or 
for valuables, named from the wood of 
which it was made. It has since been 
extended to any receptacle. 

The sport of boxing may have arisen 
from a box on the ear, from the Nvay in 
which the hand cups itself in striking; 
though it is also surmised that this box 
is imitative of the energy and sound. Note 
also that our boxing "ring" is shaped 
more like a box. 


See alas. There were early names, such 
as AS. Bofa, OHG. Buobo, whence G. 
Bube, Eng. booby, baby,? see abbot. 


It is not so often owners that make 
trouble, as their agents. This was 
true of the tax-collectors before the 
French Revolution. It was true of 
Captain Boycott, agent for an Irish 
landlord, who asked such unreasonable 
rentals that in 1880 the Irish Land 
League, formed to handle such persons, 
subjected him to the treatment that 
has taken his name. In England, they 
spoke of sendinq a person to Coventry 
— for the soldiers were quite lonely 
there, with no intercourse permitted be- 
tween the garrison and the townsfolk. 
(All eyes — save those of Peeping Tom, 
the tailor — were closed in Coventry, 
wiien, to make her husband, the cruel 
Earl Leofric of Mercia, cancel a heavy 
tax, Lady Godiva rode through the 
town, "clothed only with chastity." Cp. 
taboo.) It is, however, pointed out 
that covent, as in Covent Garden, the 
famous theatre, means convent; and 
suggested that, as folk say "go to 
Bedfordshire" when they mean retire for 
the night, "send to Coventry" may have 
been a folk term for relegating to 


brace, bracelet, bracer, brachial, bra- 
chiate, brachy-. 
See brassiere. 


The first meaning of brag was the 
braying of a tnimpet. Braggart is, 
from Fr. bragard, from braguer, to 
boast, but the simple form brag is 
earlier in Eng. than in Fr. ; it was 
probably imitative in origin. By com- 
bining this with an It. ending, Spenser 
created a character in The Faerie 
Queene (II,iii) and a word in the 
language : braggadochio, braggadocio. 
The type is very frequent in literature, 
from the miles gloriosus (boastful 
soldier) of Roman comedy to charac- 
ters in plays (Kelly, The Show-Off, 
1924) and comic strips today. 

But all things are not what they 
seem. This boastful figure, in Gr. 
drama, was called the alazon; he was 
usually outwitted by the underdog, a 
small and frail but sly and resource- 
ful fellow, called the eiron, whose tricks 
were called Gr. eironeia; whence Eng, 
irony. The apparent innocence with 
which Socrates led his audience into 
traps has named his method of argu- 
ment Socratic irony. 


See Appendix II. 


See barnard. 


Just as bough originally meant shoulder 
(see bow), so branch first meant paw — 
from Fr. branche from LL. branca, paw. 
Thus, as the bough curves out of the 
trunk (body), so the branch comes out 
of the bough (limb). And out of the 
branch come tf« twigs; note that I use 
this in the plural, for it was AS. twig, 
related to two and twice : forking from 
the branch. The trunk of a tree draws 
its name from the fact that it was cut 
for use in building (L. truncus, from 
truncare, truncat — , to cut down; cp. 
poltroon) ; by extension, this was applied 
to the trunk of the body. The trunk for 
traveling was first hollowed from a tree- 
trunk. Athletic trunks are figurative, as 
though hollowed out and the legs stuck 
in ; cp. palliate : stocking. And the ele- 
phant's trunk, that carries for him, is a 
folk-change from earlier trump, an imi- 
tative word, the object replacing the 
sound . . . We must not branch out too 




See drink. 


See brassiere. 


In the 18th c, a term popular for 
a drink to stiffen one up (the drink 
was popular much earlier) was a bracer; 
this is really asking someone to lend 
an arm. The word brace (with the 
diminutive bracelet, armlet) is, from 
OFr. brace, brase (Fr. bras), brache, 
from L. brachia, plural of brachiutn, 
arm. (From this plural, or dual, there 
being two arms, a brace came to refer 
to two of a kind.) To embrace is to 
take into one's arms. Brassard was 
armor for the upper arm. Scientific 
terms include, more directly from the 
L., brachial, of the arm; and brachiate, 
having arms. The word is related to 
Gr. brcchys, short, used in many com- 
pounds, as brachy cephalic (Gr. kephale, 
head) ; around 1600, brachygraphy was 
used for "shorthand." 

Thus a brassiere (originally plural, 
Fr. brassieres) was first a support: 
the shirt worn to support a baby's 
body; it still is a support, as an arm 
around, but not for babies. 

Brassiere is thus connected neither 
with brass nor with brectst. Breast is 
common Teut., AS. breost, but not 
found elsewhere. The Fr. word is setn, 
from L. sinus, bend, curve; this gives 
us in Eng. sinuous (sinus -\- -osus, full 
of) • also nasal sinus and mathematical 
sine. The L. and Gr. word for breast 
is mamma, a word from baby talk (like 
mamma, mother, in variations in many 
tongues) ; the adjective L. mammalts, per- 
taining to breasts, gives us the wide 
range of mammals. Brass is from Ot. 
braes, not found elsewhere and its 
origin unknown; although AS. braztan 
means to harden metal; whence Eng. 
brazen. From the figurative brazen- 
faced comes the use of brass as impu- 
dence ; suggested in Shakespeare's "Can 
any face of brass hold longer out?" 
{Love's Labor's Lost, V,ii,395). this 
sense was popularized by Defoe's verse 
satire The True-Bom Bnghshman, 1701, 
of which 80,000 copies were sold on the 
streets, and which begins: 

Whenever God erects a house of prayer 
The devil alwavs builds a chapel there; 
And 'twill be found upon examination, 
The latter has the larger congregation. 


and which speaks of "a needful com- 
petence of Ejiglish brass." The use of 
brcus for money is a sense it shares 
with several metals, from gold to tin. 

See graft. 


This word for a noisy quarrel may 
have come from Fr. brailler, to shout 
around, frequentative of Fr. braire, to 
bray; Eng. bray is from this Fr. word 
But the early Eng. sense seems not to 
have had the noise attached. Shakespeare 
uses brawl to mean contend; to brawl in 
church meant to do any talking outside 
of that required. Perhaps, therefore, 
brawl is a native Eng. word. To bawl is 
thus native, imitating the sound; it has 
parallels in other tongues : G. bellen, LL. 
baulare, to bark ; Icel. boula, to low. A 
brawl is also low, though the noise be 


See brassiere. 


See dollar. ME. breche is directly 
related to OE. brecan, break, common 
Teut. — but influenced by Fr. breche. 

See ache. 


The "staff of life" began as a "broken 
stick" — to show friendly intentions. The 
word is common Teut., OE. bread, OHG. 
brot, in the sense of piece, bit ; then — 
from the most frequent practice with 
guests — it was applied to broken bread. 
Before this the word for bread was hlaf, 
whence Eng. loaf; cp. lady. For a time 
loaf and bread were used interchange- 
ably ; then bread, the word of friendship, 
came to be used for the food itself, and 
loaf grew limited to the whole thing as 
it comes from the oven. 


See ache, discuss; cp. abridge, breach. 


See jejune. 


See brassiere; but cp. nausea. 


See inspiration. 



breech, breeches. 

This word, like the garment itself on 
a fat man, was most widespread. As OE. 
brec, broec, Celtic bracca, L. braca, brac- 
ca, it is linked with the Aryan root 
bhrag — , all meaning a covering for the 
loin and thighs, a loincloth. This devel- 
oped until the garment came to the knees ; 
whence breeches (in the plural, sometimes 
as knee-breeches) is applied to the knee- 
length article (cp. knickers) as opposed 
to the long trousers. (Trousers them- 
selves are from that same L. bracca, 
plural braccae ; see bloomers.) To say 
that a woman wears the breeches is of 
course to indicate that she is the boss 
of the family ; the breeches parts in the 
theatre are those in which a woman 
wears man's clothes. About the 16th c, 
the breech came to be used for the part 
of the body encased in the garment; 
hence the breech is the "hinder part" 
of a gun ; the early guns were muzzle- 
loading, the more recent ones, breech- 
loading. Muzzle is from OFr. musel, 
diminutive of OFr. muse, snout, possibly 
from L. morsus, bite — another diminu- 
tive of which gives us Eng. morsel; cp. 

See bloomers ; cp. leprechaun. 


See coagulate. 


See bull. 


Smokers may be -interested to note 
that their briar pipes have no connection 
with the thorny bush, the briar (OE. 
braer), but are .drawn from the heather 
plant (OE. bruyer, from Fr. bruyere, 
from LL. brugaria; probably a Celtic 
word) from the roots of which the 
pipes are made. Hence comes heathen; 
cp. pagan. 


This gift-offering for favor was once 
for charity. The word is from OFr. 
bribe, crumb, piece, esp. a piece given 
to a beggar (OFr. briber, brimber, to 
beg). From beggar to thief to extor- 
tioner the meaning grew; from a gift 
begged to a gift demanded in exchange 
for a favor, or in order to keep one 
from harm. 



The bride (AS. bryd; note that in 
G. Braut is bride, and brauen is to 
brew) was first the betrothed, pledged 
but not yet married. The promise was 
sealed with a cup, the AS. brydealu, 
bride ale, whence Eng. bridal. Bride- 
groom is a folk substitution for bride- 
gome, from AS. brydguma, from bryd 
-\- guma, man ; cognate with Gr. game- 
tes, husband, from gamos, marriage; 
and L. homo, man. 


See Appendix II. 

See bull. 

Bright's disease. 
See Appendix II. 


This adjective, shining, is applied as a 
noun, a brilliant, to a diamond (g.v.) of 
the finest quality. Originally it was quite 
another stone; the word is from beryl 
(via Fr. brilliant, shining, from briller, 
to shine, from L. form berillare, from 
berillus, beryllus, beryl). This is from 
Gr. beryllos, from the lost oriental name. 

See bazooka. 

Britain, British. 
See Hibernia. 

See broker. 

See cloth. 


see broker. 

See pamphlet. 

brogan, brogue. 

See leprechaun. 

See island. 


After a deal, men were wont to 
broach a cask of wine. But the man 
that pricked it open was the first 
broker (ME. brocour, from L. brouare, 
to tap a cask). Broach, more com- 



monly a verb, and brooch, the orna- 
ment stuck on with a pin, are variants 
of the same word. From wine mer- 
chant, the term was broadened to any 
retail dealer, such as the pawnbroker; 
or to any middleman in a transaction. 

The idea of piercing comes from L. 
brocca, spike; from the verb comes Fr. 
brocher, to stitch, cp. pamphlet. The 
diminutive of L. brocca is broccola, stalk, 
whence (It. plural) the vegetable broc- 


There is a Gr. bromos, oats, which 
gives us Eng. brome, a kind of grass. 
From this also, the learned word broma- 
tology, the study of food. But there 
is also Gr. bromos, stink; whence bro- 
mine (from its foul and noxious 
smell) and its varieties, bromide and 
the bromo — compounds. Bromo-seltzer 
being used as a sedative, the magazine 
Smart Set, in April, 1906, suggested 
the word bromide for persons and ex- 
pressions that tend to put one to sleep. 


See element. 


The cowboys in the U.S. southwest bor- 
rowed many Spanish terms from the 
Mexicans. Thus an untamed horse was 
a bronco, from Sp. bronco, rough ; its 
tamer, a broiy:o-buster. This bust is' slang 
for burst, itself slang (here) for break: 
to break the spirit of. Thus to go on a 
bust is to break . loose ( from moral 
restraint). A woman's bust was origin- 
ally the entire torso; the orig^in of the 
word is unknown, but there is a Prov. 
bust, meaning the trunk of a tree. A 
mustang was at first a strayed horse, 
from Sp. mestengo, from (strayed from) 
Sp. mesta, the graziers' association 

Bronx cheer. 
See Dutch. 


Although bronze is confidently linked 
by some with Brundisium (via. It. 
bronzo), it has other associations. The 
word was first applied to ancient works 
of art, and may have had reference to 
the source (i.e. Brundisium) or to the 
color; later, it came to signify the nmte- 
rial. As a color, it is linked with It. 
bruno, brown, of a common family, Aryan 
root bhru; cp. beaver. Brown is thus also 


common Teut. Via Fr. brunir, bruniss — , 
comes Eng. burnish. 
See Appendix II. 

See broker. 

See scrub, 


See Appendix II. 

brow, browbeat. 
See effrontery. 

See bronco, beaver. 

Browniem movement 
See Appendix II. 


This word has come to be iised inter- 
changeably with graze, q.v.; it first meant 
that on which cattle fed when grass was 
scarce, from Fr. broust, brout, bud : they 
had to nibble the young shoots of the 
early spring trees. The early form 
braugh suggests a relation with bragh, 
break; cp. discuss: they had to break the 
twig-tips. A browser was a man that fed 
the royal deer in the wintertime. The 
sense shifted from the object to the 

To browse in a library or a book keeps 
the sense of nibbling here and there. The 
word nibble is a frequentative of nib, 
nip, a small bite; whence also nipple; 
see knick-knack. 


This is via Bromuuicham and Brim- 
idgeham, for Birmingham, England,' 
long a center for the manufacture of 
cheap jewelry. 

See dismal. 

See scrub. 

See bull. 


The buccal orifice is a fancy way of 
referring to the hole between your cheeks 
(L. bucca, cheek), where food goes in 
and words come out. The buccinator is 
the muscle in the cheek wall. In the 
days of chivalry, when the herald puffed 




his cheeks and blew the trumpet loud 
and long, from L. abuccinare, abuccinat — , 
to proclaim, from a, ab^ from -(- buccina, 
trumpet, from bucca, cheek, there was an 
Eng. word abuccinate, to proclaim. 

The strap of a helmet was usually 
fastened along the cheek ; hence the fast- 
ening was called L. buccula (diminutive 
of bucca) ,\ this via Fr. boucle gave us 
Eng. buckle, which is now more often on 
a belt around the waist. 

buccaneer, buccanier. 

The French settlers in Haiti borrowed 
from the natives the habit of smoking 
meat over a boucan (Fr. form of the 
Caribbean word) or gridiron — where- 
on, said Cotgrave (1660) : "the canibals 
broile pieces of men, and other flesh." 
From the typical occupation of these 
early settlers came the present meaning 
of the word. Cp. cannibal. 


In the sense of animal, esp. male 
goat, this is a common Teut. word : 
Du. bok, Ger. bock (whence bockbeer, 
buckbcer; although buckwheat is from 
AS. boc, beech; see bible). From the 
verb buck, to behave like a goat, i.e., 
to jump vertically, comes the idea ex- 
pressed in "Buck up!" From AS. buc, 
tnmk, comes buck meaning the body of 
a wagon, retained in buckboard. From 
AS. buc, (wooden ?) jug, comes the 
meaning, to wash clothes (MHG. 
bnchcn; Fr. buer ; It. bucare). From 
Du. zaag-boc comes the meaning, a 
wooden frame for sawing, a saw-buck 
(horse is used in the same manner) ; 
whence, of course, comes buck-saw. 
(Similarly, crane the machine, from 
crane the bird; the artist's easel — in the 
17th c, when the Dutch masters 
worked — from Du. ezel, donkey. We 
also have a donkey-engine; and a 
monkey-wrench is but one of the in- 
struments named monkeywise.) 

A killer of goats (Fr. boucher, from 
bouc) is a butcher; hence, a dealer in 
meats. Franz Werfel's play Bockge- 
sang, Goat Song (1921), reminds us 
that tragedy is from Gr. tragos, from 
aix, aig, goat 4- ode, song ; possibly 
from the origin of drama in the sacri- 
fice of the scapegoat. The Latin for 
goat is caper, capr — ; cp. taxi; Capri. 
The meaning of aegis is from the 
goat-skin shield of Zeus. 


This was originally on your cheek ; 
see buccal. 

See cloth. 


See puny. The bud from which come 
flower and fruit is traced no farther 

than to ME. buddc ; but see butt. 

See budget. 


This word, like the matters con- 
cerned in it, has journeyed back and 
forth among the languages. OFr. bou- 
gette, wallet, is a diminutive of OFr. 
bouge, from L. bulga, leather bag. But 
the Romans borrowed the word from 
the Celts (who perhaps tanned the 
leatlicr) ; it exists in Olr. as holg, bag. 
When you make out your budget, you 
are organizing the contents of your 
purse. Indeed, budge was a 17th c. 
word for leather bag; but the verb 
budge, to stir, is from Fr. bouger, from 
L. bullicare, frequentative of bullire, 
to boil. But purse is closely associated 
with the first words; from AS. purs; 
LL. bursa (whence also bursar and 
Fr. Bourse), from Gr. byrsa, leather 
hide. Applied to a small bag closed 
by pulling a thong, it gives us the verb 
purse (the lips). Cp. Bursa. 


This is from the color of the buf- 
falo, from Fr. buffle, from Port, bufalo, 
from Gr. boubalos, from bous, ox. It 
meant first the animal, then the hide, 
then the color. Buffing, polishing 
metals, was first done with this hide. 

The game of blind-man's-buff , earlier 
blindman buff, is from buffet, a blow, 
from OFr. buffet, diminutive of buffe, 
imitative of a dull blow ; G. puff en, to 
jostle. Fr. pouf (Eng. puff) and bouf 
are used to imitate the sound produced 
by puffing the cheeks. Hence Eng. 
buffet, a blow, and a buffer that takes 
the blow; also rebuff. In these it is 
the sound that gave the sense; in Fr. 
and Eng. buffet, a sideboard, the idea 
of swelling out persists. Near the door 
of medieval castles and monasteries was 
a table laden with food, where the 
pilgrim might claim hospitality — and 
stuff himself ; the stuffing-place, 
whence buffet. This derivation, how- 




ever, is questioned. Another theory 
reminds us that the first buffets were 
chests on top of tables, which thus 
seemed puffed out. "Puffed out" with 
pride, according to a third theory, which 
says that the first buffet was a show- 
table, and the name originally slang. 

To blindfold was first not to fold 
a cloth over the eyes but, from blind- 
feld, from, blind + ME. fellen, to strike 
down, whence Eng. fell; the change to 
fold came by association. In the 16th 
c. Carlyle speaks of "government by 
blind-man's buff." See bugle; c/>. fell. 

See bugle. 

buffer, buffet. 
See buff. 

bug, bugaboo, bugbear. 
See insect. 


Originally a buffalo (OFr. bugle. 
from L, buculus, diminutive of bos, 
bovis, ox — from which the Eng. bovine, 
oxUke, hence sluggish and enduring) ; 
the present meaning is just a shorten- 
ing of bugle-horn, through which men 
blew. Buffalo is via Port, bufalo, from 
LL., from Gr. boubalos, from bous, ox, 
whence L. bos; the same anim^ was 
Fr. buffle, whence Eng. buff, which 
shifted from the animal to the hide to 
the color. {Horn is a common Teut. 
word, cognate with L. cornw, which gives 
us rnany scientific terms — e.g. cornicle, 
comify, comute — and the more familiar 
horn of plenty, the cornucopia: L. 
copiae, resources.) Note that the slug- 
horn arose through an error of Chat- 
terton's (1770) : the battle-cry of the 
Gaels was the sluagh-ghairm (from 
sluagh, army -f gairm, shout) ; although 
no horn is involved, this grew into our 
Eng. slogan, with which many a manu- 
facturer blows his own horn. Browning 
copied the error from Chatterton, with 
it ending Childe Roland to the Dark 
Tower Came. Thus do words grow. Cp. 

bulb, bulbous. 

See bowl. 


The first sense of this word is re- 
tained in the nautical phrase, to break 
bulk, to unload : ON. bulki, cargo. By 
association with AS. buc, belly, it came 


to mean the trunk of the body. The two 
senses fused to its present meaning. 

A bulkhead is not first a cargo-wall; 
the first part is from ME. balk, AS. 
balca, beam, ridge. To balk someone is 
to put a beam in his way; hence, to 


This is another word that has acquired 
a host of meanings on its journey along 
the years. There seem to be two basic 
sources. ( 1 ) OE. bole, bulle, whence also 
Eng. bullock, the animal the bull. The 
bull-dog is named either from early use 
in &M//-baiting, or from the shape of its 
head. From the potency of the animal 
cjime its use in the general sense of 
male; hence also, from the idea of 
strength in general, apparently, the stock 
market use of a purchase in expectation 
of a rise, then of the bulls that seek to 
increase market prices. (2) L. bulla, a 
bubble or other spherical object. This 
exists directly, as Eng. bulla, in physiolo- 
gy and medicine. As the papal bull, it re- 
ferred first to the seal attached, then to 
the formal papal edict. [Less formal and 
full is the papal brief (from L. brevis, 
breve, short; whence also the Eng. ad- 
jective brief), extended to include legal 
briefs and other such documents.] The 
word bull, jest, nonsense, — for a time 
associated with Irish, and vulgarly linked 
as though from the animal — is also of 
quite early use; probably as a variation, 
via OFr. bole, boule, fraud, of L. bulla, 
bubble — prone, as many an investor has 
discovered too late, to burst into nothing. 
The bubble itself, earlier burble, like gur- 
gle, giggle, q.v., is imitative (of liquid 
bubbling up). 

A breviary (L. breviarium, from bre- 
vis) was a summary or epitome; now it is 
used of the prayers of the Divine Office, 
the eight hours that sum up the day of 
the Catholic Church. These are: (1) 
matins, from L. matutinus (matutinae 
vigiliae, early watches). (2) lauds, from 
L. laus, laud — , praise; whence also laud- 
atory; cp. laudanum. (3) prime, q.v., 
from prima hora, first hour ; .sunrise, or 
six o'clock a.m. (4) terce or' tierce, Fr. 
feminine of tiers, third, from L. tertia 
hora : the third hour of the canonical day, 
ending at 9 a.m. (5) sext, from L. 
sexta hora, sixth hour : 12 m. (6) none 
(the hour) oi nones (the office), from L. 
nanus, ninth: 3 p.m. From saying the 
prayers at the beginning instead of the end 
of the three hour period, our noon came 
to be at 12 m. ; see luncheon. (7) vespers, 
from L. vesperus, evening star, from Gr. 



hesperos; cp. argosy. (8) complitue, earl- 
ier complin, via OFr. from L. complcta 
hora: the hour that completes {cp. foil) 
the services of the day. 


See ballot. 


See bull. 

bumblebee, bump. 
See bombardier. 


The delicious scone comes from Du. 
schoonbrot, fine bread (G. schon, fine). 
Similarly bun seems to come from Fr. 
bon, good (a bonbon is a goody). It is 
probably not, as has been suggested, 
from OFr. bugne, a swelling; this word 
gives us bunion. 


See luncheon. 


See neighbor. 


See bun. 

bunsen (burner). 

See Appendix II. 


See democracy. 

See dollar. 


See bourgeois. 


Just as there is a town mouse distinct 
from the country mouse, so the town 
thief and the country thief are kept 
apart. The highwayman still tells us his 
habitat in his name; but the burglar is 
a city-practitioner. The common Teut. 
word for manorhouse is AS. burg, re- 
lated to AS. beorgan, to protect. This 
gives us borough, burg (in slang, or as 
a frequent suffix in names) ; borrowed 
in LL. it entered the Romance tongues. 
But thievery was there too: LL. bur- 
garia, burglary : — the L. word latro, 
thief, dropped out, but gave / to the 
burglar. It is also underneath the more 
technical term larceny, from Fr. larcin, 
from L. latrociniutn, thievery, from 
latro, thief. But cp. dollar. 

See dollar. 

Sec bombast. 


See bronze. 


This is the Greek name for Carthage, 
from byrsa, hide. Legend tells us that 
Dido, arriving from Tyre, was granted 
by the natives all the land an ox-hide 
would cover, whereupon she cut it into 
thongs, and encircled the site of the 
city. Thong Castle, Kent, England, 
draws its name from a similar legend 
regarding Hengist. LL. bursa, hide, wal- 
let, gives us Fr. Bourse (Rialto, Wall 
Street); Eng. purse; reimlurse, to put 
back into the purse (L. re, back, again 
-f- un, from in, in). Pursy, fat, baggy, 
does not mean 'like a well-filled purse', 
but is from OFr. pourcif, from poulsif, 
from L. pulsare, pulsat — , to beat, and 
first meant 'out of breath'. Cp. pelt. 

See nausea. 

See strategy. 


See bronco. 

See butt.. 


See buck. 


The protest "But me no huts!" is not 
from Shakespeare. H. L. Mencken's 
New Dictionary of Quotations on His- 
torical Principles lists it as from Henry 
Fielding's Rape Upon Rape, II, ii, in 
1730; but the same expression occurs 
in Mrs. Susannah Centlivre's The Busy- 
body in 1708, and was probably current 
before. The New English (Oxford) 
Dictionary gives nine columns to but; 
but let that pass (Shakespeare, Merry 
Wives of Windsor, I, iv, 14). (Dver six 
columns are given to the uses of butt. 
Most of these seem related to the basic 
sense of a stump or lump or thick knob 
or end. Thus there is the butt, a flat 
fish, as also in the compounds halibut 
(cp. holy) and turbo t ( ?, from L. 



turbo, top: flat-top; or ?? from L. 
turbo, turbin — , something that spins, a 
whirlwind; whence Eng. turbine; cp. 
trouble — from the fact that the eye 
seems to turn from the side to the top 
of the fish). The wine cask butt is 
from L. butta, cask; It. botte. The butt 
of a gun is the thick end. Butt as a 
boundary mark or goal is confused be- 
tween Fr. bout, end, and Fr. but, goal — 
both basically the same; in the sense of 
target, this has come to mean one that 
is the target for shafts of ridicule. 

To abut is a similar fusion: to join 
at the end (Fr. abouter, the a from 
L. ad, at, to), and to reach the mark 
(Fr. abuter) . The debut (to down the 
goal) from Fr. debuter, to start off 
at bowling, became used figuratively 
for starting out at anything, then 
launching into the theatre or society — 
esp. (present participle feminine of 
debuter) of the debutante. 

There is also a butt, meaning hillock, 
mound, which in the U. S. is more 
commonly used in the Fr. form, butte. 
The butt, used of the thick, i.e., the hin- 
der part, of a hide, also suggests the 
buttocks. Bottom (OE. botm) and bot- 
tle, q.v., are in the same family. Similar- 
ly a button was originally a small knob, 
or a bud (listed as of unknown origin, 
bud may also be of this group). The 
Fr. bout, end, has the verb bouter, to 
thrust out ; whence, via Fr. bouteres, 
supports, comes Eng. buttress; but cp. 

The common word but has lost its 
original sense in English, but preserves 
it in Scottish. It is via earlier bout, 
bute, from OE. buta, from be-utan, by 
the outen, on the outside; hence, out- 
side of, except for ... As the Ger- 
mans say, "This case has a but in il." 
Cp. boot; bottle. 

Related to butt may be bat, from OE. 
botte, a heavy-ended club. The flying 
mammal, the bat, is a co. . option of 
earlier back, from the Scandinavian, 
from Icel. blacka, to flutter. But cp. 

See butt. 



This seems a luxury the Teutons did 
not know,' for they have borrowed the 
word from south Europe: from L. 
butyrum, from Gr. boutyron, from bous, 
ox (whence ? Eng. bossy) -f turos, 
cheese, related to disturb, from L. turba, 
tumult, whence Eng. turbulence. Eng. 
buttery is, however, a place where butts 
or barrels of liquor were stored; cp. 

buttock, button. 

See butt. 


This is corrupted, because of the usu- 
al method of fastening, from the earlier 
buttonhold — wliich perhaps better fits 
our own loops and other devices. 


5"^^ parrot ; butt. 


Whether from the old saw, Handsome 
is as handsome does, or because those 
that do as they are told are rewarded 
with goodies and grow fat, buxom 
(earlier bucksome, from ME. buhsam, 
from AS. bugan, to bow) first meant 
obedient; then jolly, plump and good 
to look upon. 


See chichevache. (L. bi-comu, two 
horned; but the early pictures show the 
beast without horns — which, considering 
his nature, is wondrous strange.) 


This lingering word has no connec- 
tion with what you can get by with. 
It is from ME. bilaw, from byrlaw, 
from AS. baer, village, farm, whence 
boor, cp. neighbor -\- log, law ; and 
meant a local regulation. It may be re- 
lated (through the root bu, to dwell) 
to byre, cowshed ; and it remains at the 
end of place-names, e.g. Derby (which 
gave its name to a kind ot hat worn 
at the horse races). 



Si-e taxi. 


The mystic element in this word is 
preserved in Eng. cabbala and cabbalistic. 
It is by way of LL., from Heb. qab- 
balali, tlie received lore, from qabal, to 
receive. The word was popularized in 
Eng. during the reign of Charles II, 
from tiie fact that the initials of his 
1671 ministers spelled the word: Clif- 
ford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, 
Lauderdale. From this Privy Council 
came the modern cabinet : Fr., from It. 
gabinctto, diminutive of yabbia, cage, 
from L. cavea, cage, cave, from cavus, 
hollow. Hence cavity, cavern, excavated. 
Cp. calf. To cajole is to chatter (esp. 
to entice wild birds to be caught) like 
a bird in a cage, from OFr. cageoler; 
whence also gaol; from the 13th c. 
spelling gaiole comes Eng. jail. Cabinet 
is a diminutive of cabin, from ME. 
caban, perhaps taken directly from 
Welsh caban, hut, instead of from the 
Fr. One suggestion connects gaberdine 
with this word, as the diminutive of 
Sp. gaban, great cloak, from cabana, 
cabin, shelter; cp. cloth. 


If you speak of a head of cabbage, 
you are repeating yourself ; for cabbage 
means head. The name of the vegetable 
is Fr. chou.v; it is from Fr. choux ca- 
bus, headed cabbage, shortened to cabuS, 
cabbage. By way of OFr. cabuce, from 
It. capuccio, a little head, it is from 
L. caput, head. Caput, capit — gives us 
capital, etc. ; cp. dchieve. There is a 
word in , heraldry, caboshed, which 
means with the head full front, high. 
To cabbage, meaning to filch, may be 
from this source, figuratively (you put 
the leaves into a bag to make the 
vegetable come to a head ; and the ob- 
jects into a bag to slip away with 
them) ; or, from OFr. cabasscr, to put 

into a basket, from OFr. cabas, basket 
— which may itself be from the same 

cabin, cabinet. 

See cabal. 


This is not related to cab, q.v., but 
possibly (through the, German) to cabin, 
being a cabin aus, or cabaus : originally a 
cook-room on the deck of a merchant 
ship (ca. 1760). It Was not applied to 
the last (trainmen's) car of a train until 
ca. 1880. in the U. S. 

The ending was perhaps fashioned as 
in vamoose, q.v., and hoosegow. This is 
from Mexican Sp. juzgadOg husgado,. past 
participle of juegar, to judge: judged, 
therefore sentenced, therefore jailed. 


See vanilla. 


See laugh. 


The military cadet was once the 
younger son, from Fr. cadet, from 
Gasc. capdet, diminutive of cap, head; 
cp. achieve. From this came the use, 
as caddie (Sc.), for errand boy; now 
limited to one that carries another's 
clubs on a golf course. Shortened to 
cad, this represents the English Uni- 
versity opinion of an errand 'xjy, ap- 
plied to anj'one of whom the students 


See cad. 

cadence, cadenza. 

See decay. 


Sec cad. 




See element. 


Hermes (Roman, Mercury) messenger 
of the gods, carried a herald's wand, Gr. 
kadukion, kedukeion, from kedux, keduk-, 
herald (related? to L. dux, due-, leader, 
duccre, to guide; cp. duke). This wand 
(an olive branch with two serpents 
twined) replaced the icnotted staff, with 
one twined serpent, of Aesculapius, as 
the symbol of medicine: Eng., the cadu- 
ceus. A snake brought Aesculapius an 
herb with healing powers ; whereupon 
Pluto, lord of the underworld, asked Zeus 
to slay him. Far from being a spirit of 
evil (save to the gods; cp. totem), the 
snake, shedding its skin to renew itself, 
was a symbol of healing. The daughter 
of Aesculapius was Hygeia (Gr. hygies, 
healthy), whence Eng. hygiene. 

The caduceus must not be confused 
with Eng. caductty, from L. caducus, in- 
firm, from cadere. to fall; cp. cheat. 


See shed. 














In late 19th c. England there was a 
"cult of the Calamus"; Swinburne, W. M. 
Rossetti and others, in admiration of the 
American poet Walt Whitman, whose 
best known work is Leaves of Grass. 
Various grasses or reeds are called cala- 
mus, from L. calamus, from Gr. kalamos, 
reed. It was long supposed that the 
damage to cornstalks from hail or mildew 
produced the word calamity. The an- 
cients assumed this derivation; and Bacon 
tells that drouth, when the com cannot 
come out of the stalk, turns calamus into 
calamitas (L. calamitas, calamitat — ). To- 
day etymologists prefer to guess at an 
early L. calamis, hurt, which does not 
exist and has no known ancestors, but 
which seems to be present in the L. 
incolumis, safe. 

The zinc ore, calamine, may be from 
calamus, because of the shape of lines in 

it; but is perhaps corrupted by alchem- 
ists from L. cadmia, from Gr. kadmia. 
Calamint was probably from LL. caliy- 
mentum, — mentum the noun ending; but 
was corrupted by popular etymology as 
though from Gr. kalos, beautiful, -^- 
minthe, mint, cp. fee. For the Gr. prefix 
meanitig beautiful, see calibre. 

See cell. 


See element. 


The abacus, (L. from Gr. abax, 
abak — , slab), which since the 17th c. 
has brought to mind a frame with 
rows of little balls, for counting (see 
below), was originally a board covered 
with sand, in which the ancients traced 
figures, then erased them (as later, 
slates were used). They did their 
calculating with strings of little stones 
as counters (L. calculus, pebble, diminu- 
tive of calx, calc — , lime, limestone, 
which gives us calcium and many com- 
binations in calci — ). Thus Eng. calcvr 
lus is both a medical term for a stony 
formation, and a mathematical term for 
a method of figuring. Thus callus is 
a bony growth; and callous, hardened 

Count (ME. counten, from OFr. 
cunter, confer, to tell, whence Fr. cont0, 
tale, from L. computare, compute, from 
com, together + ^utore, to think, reck- 
on) was in the 14th c, by a return to 
the L., spelled compte, from which, 
about 1500, came the spelling comp- 
troller, still in use along with controller 
(L. contra, z.g3m%\.-\-rotulus, register, 
roll: one that checks the rolls; cp. rote). 
There are many compounds from this 
stem: account, accountable; recount; dis- 
count. Count, as a title, came into Eng. 
in the 16th c. (muchlater than co«n/^w), 
at first only to represent Fr. comte, 
If. conte. It is from L. comes, comit — , 
one togetljer, a companion; then esp. 
the companion of a king, hence a noble. 
{Companion, contpany, are from L. com, 
together, + Panis, bread : men that have 
broken bread together. Note, however, 
that comrade, though its first two syl- 
lables became one under the influence 
of L. com, together, is really from Fr. 
camarade, Sp. camarada, from L. cam- 
era, box, room— our picture-taking mar 
chine is shortened from camera 
obscura, dark box — and meant a room- 



mate. Likewise, chum is a late 17th c. 
abbreviation of chamber-mate.) The do- 
main of a count is a county. A counter, 
as one who counts, or as a calculating 
device, must be distinguished from the 
many words that begin with counter — 
(ME. countre, from Fr. contre, from 
L. contra, against) : counteract, counter- 
mand, counterpart, etc. But note that 
country is the place that lies counter 
your line of vision (against the city: 
LL. contrata; cp. G. Gegend, region, 
from gegen, against). Indeed the forms- 
here are almost countless! 


See calculate. 


See chauffeur. 

calendsir, calender. 

See dickey. 

See flower. 


This is a common Teut. word, AS. 
cealf. The calf of the leg draws its 
name from resembling the calf before 
it has left the cow . . . Similarly, what 
we call a cave-in was first a calve-in : 
the mass of earth falling as a calf 
from a cow. Cp. cabal. 

calibre, caliber. 

This word (from Arab, qalib, mould, 
though possibly, from L. qua libra, of 
what weight : it was at one time spelled 
qualibre) seems to have been first used 
in Eng. with figurative application, as 
quality, rank. Then jt was applied 
physically to the diameter of a cannon- 
ball, thence to the bore of the gun. A 
variation was caliver, a type of gim 
used in the 16th c. It is the same 
word as calliper, caliper (at first an 
adj . : calliper compasses ; then used 
alone), instrument for measuring the 
bore, etc. These words must not be 
confused with others beginning colli — , 
from"' Gr. kallos, beautiful: e.g., calli- 
graphy, beautiful writing; Calliope, she 
of the beautiful voice (now, in Bar- 
num's pleasantly exaggerate way, the 
steam organ of the circus) ; callis- 
thenics, exercise for beauty ; Venus 
Callipyge, of the beautiful buttocks. 

See cloth. 


See States. 

caliper, calligraphy. Calliope, 
Callipyge, callisthenics. 

See calibre. 


See eucalyptus. 


See council. 

callous, callus. 

See calculate. 


The Gr. kaiein, bum, whence kaustos, 
burnt, whence L. causticus, gives us craM.y- 
tic, both in chemistry (caristic potash 
and lime) and in manners. By way of 
Gr. kauterion, hot iron, whence L. cauter- 
izare, comes cauterize. Caution is not 
related, coming from L. cavere, caut — , 
to- take heed ; as in caveat emptor, let 
the buyer beware. But by way of 
cognate L. calere, to heat + facere, to 
make, comes calefaction, with other 
such terms. Gr. kawna, heat, whence 
LL. calma ? (the change to / influenced 
by L. calor, heat, whence caloric and 
calories) gives us the present Eng. 
calm. The heat of midday in tropic 
countries calls for a cessation of labor 
(LL. ?caumare, whence Fr. chomer, to 
stop work) at about the sixth hour 
of the day {sixth, from L. sexta, 
v/hence Sp. siesta, adopted in Eng.) ; 
the word for heat was transferred to 
the idea of the rest, the calm. 


This white powder that becomes dark 
on exposure to light is named from this 
characteristic: Gr. kaios, fair + melas, 

L. calor, calori — , 


See chauffeur, 
heat. Cp. calm. 

See challenge. 


Many a mountain (BYeadloaf, e.g.) is 
named from its shape. The hill near 
Jerusalem, on which Jesus was crucified, 
was called by the Hebrews gulgolePy 
skull. The Greeks transliterated this as 
Golgotha; then the Romans translated it 
into L. calvaria, skull, whence Mount 



Calvary, in Old English again translated 
into Headpanstow. The calvaria is the 
roof of the brain-case, in Eng. anatomy 

See eucalyptus. 


See camp. 

See cloth. 


Today this may seem to Ix' clearly 
enough, the bridge over the Cam. But 
before there was a bridge, there was 
a ford, over the crooked river, from 
cam, crooked, ( Cameron, crooked nose ; 
Campbell, crooked mouth) + Celt, tnyd, 
ford. {Campbell has been modified as 
though from L. campus bellus, fair field, 
Fr. Beauchamp.) 


See monk; dromedary. 


See Appendix II. 

See Appendix II. 


See calculate. 


See Cambridge. 


This is the noun (Fr. — age; Eng. 
act, — tion, from L. — ationem\, from 
Fr. camoufler, to disguise. Its first 
military use was in the form camou- 
flet, a gas mine : from the sense of 
blowing smoke in the face. It is re- 
lated to m«///e, from Fr. moufler, to 
cover up, from moufle, a mitten, from 
LL. mufula, diminutive of G. Muff, 
muff, from OHG. mouwe, a sleeve. 
Note that the medieval Latin word is 
borrowed from the Teutonic ; indeed, 
it may not be a diminutive, but from 
MLG. niol, soft -\- vel, skin, whence 
Eng. fell, cognate with pelt, q.v. From 
the idea of a woman's wide, hanging 
sleeve (separate in early days; a lad> 
gave her sleeve to her knight when he 
went forth to win glory) came our 
winter muff. Cp. copse, sleeveless. 


The muff of a player on a ball field 
is from another source, being an imi- 
tative word of OE. origin, to muff, 
to mumble; hence, a simpleton, an 
awkward fellow, a "butter-fingers." 
We have transferred the word from 
the person to the act. 


This was first the field (L. campus, 
field, from Gr. kepos, garden) where 
an army might stay. Its wars would 
be waged upon a larger space (L. cam- 
pania, plain) ; then the term for the 
place was applied to the activity ; hence, 
an election campaign, which is usually 
bloodless. In ME., camp always means 
battle, like Kampf in German : Hitler's 
Mein Kampf. A college field is a 

The level ground near Naples was 
called Campania; similarly, a section 
of France is called by the Fr. deriva- 
tive. Champagne; from this we take 
the name of the beverage. Shakespeare 
(King Lear, I, i) calls a large field 
a champaign. See champion. 

The ridge, or tog, cam, is common 
Teut., Du. ham, Welsh cam, Eng. comb; 
cp. quaint. It is probably related to old 
Celtic cambo, bent back, crooked; 
whence Eng. arms akimbo. 


See camp. 


See flower. 


See Cambridge. 


Set canon. 


The color comes from the bird, and 
the bird comes from the islands. Shake- 
speare speaks of a dance, canary {All's 
Well That Ends Well, II, i)and of the 
wine (naturally, with Falstaf f : Merry 
Wiv^s of Windsor, III, ii). But the 
islands take their names from the dogs 
that abounded there: (L. canaria, from 
canis, dog, whence Eng. canine. The 
Gr. kyne, kyn — , dog, gives Eng. 
cynic; also cynosure — cynos, dog + 
oura, tail : name given to the tail of 
the constellation of the Lesser Bear, 
the last star of which is the pole-star, 
to which all mariner? turned.) Canni- 
bal is an error: Hakluyt. in his Voy- 




ages (1598), says: "The Caribes I 
learned to be men-eaters or combats ;" 
Defoe in Robinson Crusoe follows him : 
the word Caribal, an inhabitant of the 
Caribbeans, was altered, from the idea 
that the cannibals ate like dogs. 

The island of Capri is named from 
the many goats there; cp. buck; taxi: 
Coney Island, (g.z/.)New York, from the 
great number of rabbits, or coneys — 
whose skins still provide many a fair 
lady with furs. 


This high-kicking dance of the Pari- 
sian cafes is named after the erudite 
discussions of the university scholars, 
whence also dunce, q.v. So many ar- 
guments began with the roundabout L. 
quatnquatii, although, that the word 
(pronounced, in Fr., concon) became 
the term for a piece of nonsense. By 
a bawdy pun on the sound of the word, 
among carousing students, it became 
the name of the skirt-lifting dance. 


In L., cancer, pi. cancri meant the 
shape of crossing bars ; perhaps by dis- 
similation, from career, prison ; see 
quarter. Because of his ten legj, the 
word was applied to the spr ad-out 
crab. Hence we have the Tropic of 
Cancer, Cancer, the fourth of the 
twelve signs of the Zodiac ; cancer the 
disease, and (01:.. cancer, cancor) the 
similar-seeming illness, canker. From 
the L. diminutive cancelli, crossbars 
(still used in Eng., cancelli, of the lattice 
between the choir and the rest of the 
church, whence chancel, chancery, and 
chancellor, from Fr. chancelier) came 
L. cancellare, whence Eng. cancel, to 
mark out with crossed lines. Fr. canceler 
means to swerve ; Eng. canceleer, can- 
celler, a hawking term meaning the 
sudden turn of the bird before it 
strikes, came to mean to digress. So 
crabbed (from the crooked walk of the 
crab) cross-tempered, perverse. Crab, 
from OE. crabba, is related to LG. 
krabben, to claw, also to crawl and 
crazvfish. While crab apple may be 
related to Sc. scrab, it is influenced by 
thought of twisted — the tree — and twist- 
ed mouth, wry — the effect of the fruit. 

candid, candidate. 

Before election, those aspiring for 
office in ancient Rome wore togas that 
symbolized their purity (L. candidatus, 
garbed in white, from candidiis, white). 
After a time, anyone running for of- 
fice, no matter how double-dealing, 
was called a candidate. The word for 
the color, on the other hand, came to 
mean without deceit, frank, candid. 

L. candidus is from candere, to siiine ; 
whence, with the noun diminutive, can- 
dle, a little shining (but: How far 
that little candle throws its beams ! ) 
1 lie inceptive of the verb is candesccre, 
the present participle of which, cande- 
scens, candescent — •, gives us Eng. 
candescent and (with the intensive in) 
incandescent light. 


See candid. 

Candlewood means pine knots, which 
the early American settlers used for 


Svv'eet-tooth down the ages shows 
how little man changes. Candy was 
first a verb in Eng. — its past tense 
spelled candide as though from L. 
candidus, white ; cp. candid — but the 
word traveled much farther. The 
Italians say succhero candi, as we say 
sugar-candy; but this is repetition: 
from Pers. qand, sugar-candy ; Arab. 
qandat, sugar-candy, from qandi, sug- 
ared, made of sugar. It still is. The 
Sansk. khanda, lump sugar, is from 
khand, to break, as the crystalized sugar 
crumbled. Cane, however, is from Gr. 
kanna, reed, from Arab, qanah. Sugar 
itself is from OFr. sucre, from LL. suc- 
carum, from Arab, sukkar; connection 
is suggested (through bitter experience?) 
with Sansk. carkara, gravel. 


See candy, canon. 


See canary. 


See cancel. 

See canary. 


See cancel. 


See canon. 





Preceptors enforced tlieir canons with 
a cane; countries use cannon. All three 
words are the same. The origin is 
probably oriental ; there is Arab, qanat, 
cane; Heb qaneh, reed. Thence Gr. 
kanna, kanne, reed; whence, from the 
straight hollow tube, cannon. But also 
Gr. kanon, whence L. canon, a rod ; 
then a rule in the sense of a carpcin- 
ter's rule or measure ; thence, any rule 
or law. From the same source came 
Fr. canne, whence ME. cane (two syl- 
lables), whence Eng. cane — so that cane, 
canon, and cannon are triplets. But so 
also are kennel (a gutter), channel, and 
canal, from L. canalis, from the 
same Gr. kanna, reed, tube. The root 
is Aryan skan, from ska, to cut, 
whence Sansk. khan, to dig, whence 
khani, mine. Kennel, doghouse, is ME. 
kenel, from OFr. cJienil, diminutive of 
chen, from L. canem, dog. 


See saunter. 


See accent, saiuiter. 

canvas, canvass. 

See filter. 


See latex. 


Sec scourge, vamp. 


See discuss. 

cap-a-pie, caparison, cape, Capeline. 

See achieve. 


See copse. 


See saunter. 


See peach. Sometimes spelled canta- 
lope (note the St. Valentine's day 
greeting : "We're too young, dear, we 
can't elope." . . . For elope, see 


This sounds like a coined word, a 
telescope of cant or canker and ran- 
corous ; but it really has a legitimate 
history. OFr. contet (whence Eng. 
contest) gave OE. contekous, quarrel- 
some, then contekour, quarreler; whence 
cantankerous. Contest, through the Fr. 
is from L. contestari, to call to wit- 
ness against ; cp. test : when witnesses 
are arrayed on both sides, there is 
indeed a contest. 


See incentive. 


The early shops were often just a 
comer of a room or of a cellar. Can- 
teen, It. cantina, cellar, is a diminutive 
of cant, a corner, edge. (Thus Du. 
wink el, corner, also came to mean 
shop.) Applied first to a shop where 
drink and food were sold to soldiers, 
the meaning was extended to a chest 
for carrying bottles, then to the sol- 
diers' water-holder. 


See taxi. There are two other mean- 
ings — and origins — of this word. From 
Du. kaper, from kapen, to take, plunder, 
it means a privateer, or the captain of 
such a vessel. From L. cap parts (which 
was thought a plural, hence the Eng. 
without the s) it means a shrub (Cap- 
paris spinosa) the buds of which are 
used in seasoning and pickling. 

capital, capitalist, capitalize, capitol, 

See achieve. 


See canary. 

caprice, capricious. 

See taxi. 


See capstan. 


There are several interlockings caught 
in this sailors' term. It seems to come 
via Port, cabestan, earlier cabestran, from 
the present participle (capistrant — ) of a 
LL. capistrare, capistrat — , to fasten, 
varied from capitrare, frequentative of 
L. caper e, capt — , to seize. But (like 
capsize, which began with the meaning 
"to come a header", to go down head 
first) it may be related to L. caput, 
head; cp. achieve, manoeuvre. But the 
cap — also suggested the origin in the 
word for goat; cp. taxi: — ^buck, q.v., and 



other animals have been used as names 
for machines. This leaves the latter half 
of the word to be explained; and the ef- 
forts to account for it remain in various 
spellings the word has had: capstand, 
capstone, capstern, and more. The mech- 
anism, and also the rope that winding 
around it draws the anchor up, have 
likewise been called the capstring. Heave 

See achieve. 

captivate, captive. 

See manoeuvre. 



The cardinal virtues are those on 
which salvation swings. The church 
similarly depends upon its cardinals 
(from L. cardinalis, essential, from 
car do, car din — , hinge, from Gr. kar- 
dan, to swing). 

The color is named from that of 
the cardinal's gown; the bird, from the 


See chary. 


See car. 


See manoeuvre ; purchase, achieve. 


See carouse. The L. carrus, car, 
from ctirrus, chariot, from currere, 
curs — , to run, is from Sansk. char, 
kar, to move. Cart is the diminutive, 
from LL. carreta. Cargo (from LL. 
carga, burden, whence carricare, to 
load) : that which is put on a cart. 
Career (Fr. carriere, from L. carrus) 
was first a road, a race-track ; then, 
one's progress along it. Cp. cutlet; 


The weight of a diamond is measured 
in beans. Little beans, being roughly 
of the same size and weight, made a 
convenient standard of measure in an- 
cient times : carat traveled through 
Fr., It. and Gr., from Arab, qirat, 
from qaura, bean. The sign of omis- 
sion, caret, is directly from L. caret, 
it is missing, from carere, to be lack- 


See pan — . 

See ajar; element. 


See suffer. 


See imcle. 


See map. 

See Appendix II. 


See charity. 


See carat. 

See car.' 


This word is from It. caricatura, 
from caricare, from LL. carricare, to 
load a car, from carrus, car, q.v. One 
suggestion is that the picture is like 
an overladen car, exaggerated (L. ex- 
aggerare, exaggeratus, to heap up, from 
agger, mound, from ad, to + gerere, to 
bear; whence, — igerous). It is more 
likely that the word ccwnes from the 
pictures' being borne about on a cart, 
on feast days, as the effigies of Guy 
Fawkes were carried in England. 


See sincere. 

carnage, carnal, carnation. 

See sarcophagus. 


This might have been so named, as 
the flesh-colored stone (from L. cam — , 
flesh); but it was earlier cornelian: 
from Fr. cornaline, from L. comu, 
horn — being, like a horn, translucent. 
Similarly, onyx is from Gr. onyx, 
finger-nail ; and perhaps nacre, mother- 
of-pearl, from It. naccaro, from Sansk. 
nakhara, nail. Agate is from Gr, 
Achates, a river in Sicily. Chrysolite 
is from Gr. chrysos, gold + lithos, 
stone (whence lithography, writing on 
stone). Emerald Is an old word, from 
OFr. esmeralde, from Gr. smaragdus 
(whence Eng. smaragdus) , from Sansk. 



viarakta. Jacinth is from L. hyacin- 
tlius, from the color of the blood of 
Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved, and 
Zephyr slew in jealousy ; the drops of 
Ijiood from the dying youth formed 
the flower hyacinth, whose petals bear 
his name. Jade is from OFr. ejade, 
from Sp. {piedra de) ijada, stone of 
colic, from L. ilia, flank: it being sup- 
posed to cure a pain in the side. 
Jasper is from Gr. iaspis, from Arab. 
yashp, from Heb ynsh'- h Moonstone, 
obviously dedicate, is a translation of 
Gr. selenites {lithos), stone of Selene, 
the moon ; whence also ^ng. selenite. 
Pearl is a common word, perhaps 
tiirough the Sicilian perna, from L. 
perna, shell-fish. Sapphire is also old, 
from Gr. sappheiros, from Sansk. sani- 
priya, ? dear to the planet Saturn; 
Jieb. sappir. Sardonyx is the onyx of 
Sardis, which place also gives us Eng. 
sard. Topac is old, from ? Sansk. 
tapas, heat. Zircon is from Fr. sir- 
cone, from Arab, zarqun, from Pers. 
zargun, golden, from car, gold. Jewel 
is of less i)rice, being, from OFr. joel, 
joiel, from LL. jocale, diminutive of L. 
jocus, game, trifle, wlience jocular, joke. 
Precious is via Fr. precieux, from L. 
pretiosus, valuable, from pretiiiui, price. 
Precious, meaning affected, is from the 
Fr. application of precieux, in the 17th 
c, to the ladies, Les precieuses, (the 
priceless ones, ironically) who estab- 
lished tlie literary salons of Paris. And 
stone is a common Teut. word, AS. 


This is generally explained through 
the Christian custom of feasts and 
frolics the day (or the week) before 
the Lenten fasting: carnival, from It. 
carnevale, from LL. carnelevarium, 
from L. carnem levare, to remove meat. 
Popular etymology points to L. carnem 
vale, farewell to meat. But the ancient 
Greek ship-cart ceremonies anticipated 
those of Christian Lent ; the north- 
folk combined Celtic and Latin to call 
the ship-cart carrus navalis; hence per- 
haps the word carnival. Cp. sarcoph- 


See sarcophagus. 

carom, carrom. 

This billiard shot has been corrupted 
to cannon (for which see canon). The 
word carom is a shortening of carambole. 


And the whole thing may have started 
with a golden-yellow fruit, which the 
Hindi call karmal (Malay karambil, coco- 
nut), the Portuguese carambola; and 
which Linnaeus in his botany took into 
modern Latin. (Linnaeus: Carl von Linne, 
1707--78, founder of modern botany, not 
especially concerned with billiards.) 


The carotid arteries along the neck 
carry blood to the head ; press them, and 
you presently drop into slumber. Hence 
the Greeks called them karotides (plural) 
from Gr. karoun, to stupefy. (The afore- 
said consequence was known to the as- 
sassins, q.v.) 


The ancient Romans had goblets made 
in the siiape of a crouched lion ;• the 
bowl was the belly, so that the only 
way to put down the goblet was by 
drinking down the wine. In the middle 
ages, the Germans used to lift their 
goblet, and cry "Gar aus!" (G. gar, 
completely -j- a«,f, out). Raleigli, who 
knew about tobacco as well, spoke of 
captains who "garoused of his wine till 
they were reasonably pliant." Hence, 

Carousal and carousel are tangled in 
their history. But carousel (accented on 
the last syllable), with its horses and 
little carts, seems to be from It. caro- 
selle, from garosello, a tournament, 
diminutive of garoso, quarrelsome, 
from gara, strife. This may be from 
L. garrire, to babble, which gives Eng. 
garrulmis; or from L. guerra, war, 
from OHG. iverra, whence Eng. war. 
The change from g tQ c was influenced 
by mixture with It. carricello, a little 
chariot, diminutive of carro, car — from 
the use of such carts in the merry- 
making. Cp. car. 


See crop. 


See harmony. Carpentry was as 
mucli an art, to the Greeks, as music 
and drama. 


The early floor and wall coverings 
were rude affairs, as the word indi- 
cates : carpet is from LL. carpita, from 
L. carpere, to pluck. At first it seems 
to have been applied to a monk's robe, 
then to the hangings — the best of which 



(as in Hamlet, where Polonius hides) 
were called arras, from the French 
citv, Arras, where they were manufac- 
tured. To carp at someone, while di- 
rectly from ON. karpa, to chatter, was 
changed in meaning by the influence 
of L. carpere, to pluck. 


By way of OFr. cartage, the action of 
carrying, this is from OFr. carter, to bear 
in a cart, whence also Eng. carry, q.v.; 
cp. car. The word has gone through a 
series of meanings, some of which per- 
sist — a charge for carrying ; the carrying 
(capture) of a fort; the manner of 
carrying, hence, one's carriage, one's con- 
duct; things that are carried, baggage, 
load — until it grew fixed in the sense 
of the means by which things and esp. 
persons are carried, a vehicle. 


This word is from ME. caroine, car- 
onye, carcass, from OFr. carcmie (also 
charoigne, whence Fr. charogne, title of 
a grim poem by Baudelaire) ; probably 
via a LL. form caronia it springs from L. 
caro, cam — . flesh; cp. sarcophagus. The 
northern Fr. form, carogne, applied fig- 
uratively to "a carcass of a woman", has 
come into Eng. as crone. 


See carriage. 

Among special uses : to carry the day, 
or the election, means to bear it (the 
victory) from the opponent; thus also 
to carry a motion in a legislative body. 
Carry was also, earlier, used alone where 
we now say carried away, to carry on a 
business — to carry on then came to mean 
to continue in a course of action, as a 
dying man may exhort his company, or 
just to behave (with the implication of 
misbehavior). To behave was formed as 
an intensive of have : the reminder Be- 
have yourself meant Have yourself (Be 
self-possessed). The word behavior is the 
Eng. verbal noun {behaver, behavor) in- 
fluenced by the Fr. avoir, to have. But 
don't be carried away (this is usually 


See car, carouse. 

carton, cartoon. 

See map. 


This was the basic Teut. term for cut- 
ting. It was OE. ceorfan; but the form 


Icel. kyrfa shows that it is cognate with 
Gr. graph — as in graphein, to score 
(q.v.), to write; cp. graft. Early writing 
was always a carving or cutting; cp. 


See Appendix //. 

cascara, case. 

See discuss, casement. 


See cheesecake. 


This is aphetic for encasement, that 
whicii holds together, from L. en, in -\- 
capere, caps — , whence cass — , to take, 
to hold. From this, also, Eng. case 
and by way of OFr. chasse, Eng. chas- 
sis, the encasing body, and sash. There 
is a mingling of this word with one 
that has dropped out of our language : 
casemate, a loophole. Casemate, though 
traced through Rabelais' Fr. chasmata 
to Gr. chasma, whence Eng. chasm, has 
closer forms. It seems to be applied 
to a loophole, whence the enemy may 
be slain, from It. casamatta (Sp. casa, 
house -f ma /ar, slaughter), from It. 
mazzare, from L. mactare, to slaughter. 
In Fr. meutriere, in G. Mordkeller, 
have the same double application. 

L. capsa, It. casa, were general terms 
for a container, whether a box or a 
hut; as in Eng. book case, cigarette 
case, stair case. The It diminutive casino 
was first a little summer house, then 
a public room, then a game played 
there. Cp. cheat. 

cash, cashier. 

See discuss. 


See cloth. 

cask, casket, casque. 

See discuss. 

See Appendix 11. 


This word, usually in the plural, as 
they are played in pairs, esp. by Spanish 
dancers, takes it name not from the color 
but from the form. (A sun-tanned maiden 
may be said to have a castaneous hue, 
from the color.) The Sp. castanet, Fr. 
castagnette, is a diminutive of Sp. castaiia, 
from the L. castanea, chestnut. The Fr. 




marron, chestnut, which we borrow for the 

delicious marrons glacis, iced chestnuts, 
has been associated with the family of 
the Roman epic poet Vergil (Virgilius 
Maro) ; but is perhaps from the Heb. 
armon, a tree translated as chestnut. 
(Speaking of epics, the Roman Martial 
deserves the ages' salvo for his cry, when 
it was suggested that he show his mettle 
by writing an epic : "What 1 Shall I 
write hexameters of wars, that pedants 
may spout me, and good boys and fair 
girls loathe my name !") 

Epic is an adjective, Gr. epikos, from 
Gr. epos, which first meant word; but 
then, as one word leads to another, came 
to mean story, then the long narrative 

Chestnut itself is earlier chesteine-nut, 
via OFr. chastaigne, from that same L. 
castanea. This itself, however, may be 
via Gr. kastanea (short for Castanian 
nut) from (1) Kastanaia in ancie;it Pon- 
tus, (2) Castana in Thessaly, (3) the 
Armenian name for the tree, kaskeni. 

Try biting into a chestnut that has 
grown old and dry, and you may guess 
the origin of the meaning, an old old 
story. Several accounts are given, of the 
origin of this sense, which is apparently 
American. According to one of the most 
favored, a travelliar was telling his tale: 
" — when suddenly out of a cork-tree — " 
"A chestnut!" interrupted a listener. The 
Captain insisted; but the man persisted: 
"A chestnut, a chestnut; I have heard 
you tell the story twenty times before!" 
From the tree, the fruit fell to the story. 


See test. 

See purchase. 

See purchase. 

casual, casualties. 

See cheat. 


See incinerator ; catgut ; cat-o'-nine- 

catalogue, catapult 

See paragraph. Note that Gr. pallein, 
to hurl, is the intensive (the first letter 
becoming explosive) of Gr. ballein, to 
throw ; cp. ball. 


Keep your eye on this. A stream of 
water that dashes swiftly down was 
in Gr. kataractes, from kata, down, -|- 
rassein, to dash. But even in ancient 
times forts were equipped with a door 
that could be dashed down in the face 
of a sudden assault; the word, took 
this sense in Greek, and the first 
English meaning of cataract was port- 
cullis. And from this movement as of 
a door coming down (the idea of speed 
long lost) came the cataract we hope 
keeps out of the eye. Portcullis is a 
simpler term, from Fr. parte, door, -|- 
coulissant, sliding, from Fr. couler, to 
slide, from L. colore, to slide, to strain; 
cp. dickey. 

The Gr. prefix cata — , down, back, 
against, occurs in a number of Eng. 
words, e.g. : catachresis ( Gr. kresthai, to 
use) ; cataclysm (Gr. klyzein, to dash 
against, flood) ; cataglottism (Gr. glotta, 
variant of glossa tongue, whence — tongue 
in the sense of language — Eng. gloss, 
glossary; glottis, epiglottis. To gloss 
over is from MHG. ^los, shining; whence 
also glass; cp. electricity) ; catalogue {cp. 
paragraph) ; catalysis (Gr. lyein, to loos- 
en; cp. lysol) ; catalepsy (Gr. cataleptos, 
seized, from lambanein, to take). The 
raft catamaran, however, is directly from 
Tamil katta-maram, tied wood; catamite 
is from L. catamitus, corrupted from 
Jupiter's cup-hearer, Ganymedes; and 
catamount is short for cat of the moun- 

catarrh, catastrophe. 

See paragraph. 


See purchase. 


Catchpenny, potboiler, and claptrap 
all, when broken apart, reveal their 
origin. The first is general ; the second 
refers to literature; the third is drawn 
from the theatre, but has become the 
most frequently applied to shoddy work 
done merely to win applause. • 


Old books printed, under the last 
line of a page, the word that began 
the first line on the next page: this 
was the catchword, to hold the atten- 
tion. The word was then applied to 
the last word {i.e., the one that gave 
the cue) in an actor's speech; then, to 
any expression that holds the attention. 



As the public grows informed, such 
expressions (as used by politicians and 
advertisers) are looked upon with sus- 
picion; we suspect catchwords — and 
those that use them avoid the term, 
seek one less known and suspected, 
e.g., slogan (q.v.) ; similarly the users 
of propaganda, q.v., now speak of the 
necessity of "indoctrination in educa- 
tion." Cp. bugle. 


See verdict. 


See incinerator. 


This "wyrm among frute," as the old 
English called it, draws its name from 
OFr. ckatte peleuse, hairy cat. But its 
form and meaning were strengthened by 
two old Eng. words. A robber was a 
piller, whence Eng. pillage: Bishop 
Latimer refers to "extortioners, cater- 
pillers, usurers." And a glutton was a 
cater; cp. incinerate : hence a cater- 
pillar was a greedy plunderer. It still 

Pillage is via Fr. piller, to plunder, 
from L. piler, to strip (the hide from), 
from L. piltis, hair. Whence also plush 
and pile (of velvet) ; cp. cloth. 


Since violin strings are made of 
metal, tennis rackets are strung with 
nylon, whence the name catgut? Orig- 
inally it was sheep-gut, anyway. 

The cat is accounted for through 
several resemblances. Catlings, small 
strings for instruments, may have been 
blended with chitterlings, guts. Shake- 
speare, in Troilus and Cressida, III, iii, 
says : "Unless the fidler Apollo get his 
sinews to make catlings on." Or it 
may have been kitgut, kit being a small 
violin as well as a kitten (G. kitt, lute; 
G. kiize, cat) 


When we speak of a man as having 
catholic taste, we mean that he likes most 
everything (or the best of every sort). 
Whistler said that such a man is not a 
man of taste at all, but an auctioneer. 
The word catholic comes via Fr. catho- 
lique (which shifted the accent to the 
first syllable, from the L. stress on the 
second) from L. catholicus from Gr. 
katholikos, general, from kata — , con- 
cerning, + holos, whole. (Thus also holo- 


caust is from Gr. holos, whole, -f caustos, 
burnt, from Gr. kaiein, to burn — which 
gives us encaustic, cauterize, caustic. 
Caustic is used literally of caustic lime, 
caustic potash, and figuratively, of caustic 
words, that maloe the victim smart. Note 
that cauterise is nbt related to caution, 
which is from caver e, cau — , to beware.) 
With the capital C, Catholic v/ns early 
applied to the "church universal". At first 
it meant the entire body of Christian 
believers, as opposed to a single congre- 
gation; then it referred to the "univer- 
sally" accepted orthodox doctrine and to 
the historic Catholic Church. 


It is suggested that this is from LL. 
catonus, a scourge loaded with lead — 
by a misunderstanding of Gr. kat ' o- 
mous, upon the shoulders — mistaking the 
reception point for the weapon. But 
this skimps the problem. 

The first scourges were made of 
thongs of cat's hide, seen in the hand 
of Osiris. The cat was a sacred animal 
among the Egyptians ; striking is re- 
lated to the belief that the strength 
(virtue) passed from the stick or hide 
to the person struck. (Remember that 
the cat is extremely lively ; it has nine 
lives.) Akin to this is the laying on 
of the sword in knighting. The prac- 
tice survived the belief : the use for 
playful striking of ticklers, sold at the 
medieval fairs, is a relic of this ritual 
striking, for fertility. . Note that Gr. 
ticktein means to beget ; L. titillare, to 
tickle, whence Eng. titillate. Tickle and 
kittle are old alternate forms ; kitten, 
bid: G. Kitze, youngling, Kitzler, 
tickler. As the years' went by, the 
proverb grew : 

A spaniel, a woman, a walnut tree, 
The more they're beaten, the better 
they be . . . 

until the whole symbolic process de- 
generated into the schoolmaster's max- 
im : Spare the rod and spoil the child. 


5"^^ ketchup. 


See achieve. 

caudal, caudate. 

See bible. 


See chauffeur. 





This is a road along a causey, which 
earlier term it has almost entirely re- 
placed. A causey was a roadbed or a 
mound trodden down to make it hard, 
from OFr. chauciee (Fr. chausee), from 
LL. calceata, calciata, as in via calciata, 
trodden way, from calciare, calciat — , to 
trample, from calx, calc — , heel ; cp. re- 

caustic, cauterize, caution. 
See catholic. 


A medieval man on a horse (Fr., 
from It. cavaliere, cavallero — sometimes 
in Eng. cavallero, cavaliero, from Sp. — , 
from LL. caballus, horse) was likely 
to be a noble. But as he was on high, 
he was also likely to be haughty (Fr. 
haul, high ; Fr. hauteur means both 
height and pride). Hence the noun 
cavalier means a knight ; whereas the 
adj. means disdainful, supercilious (L. 
super, above + ^t/tMwt, eyebrow). The 
same word, by way of the Fr. {cheval, 
horse; chevalier) is Eng. chevalier. In 
early Eng. this gave us the adj. chival- 
rous, which dropped out of use by 
1600, but by the 19th c, under the 
influence of the romantic spirit, had 
been revived. Chivalry was long pro- 
nounced with the ch as in church ; 
recently, the French sound as of sh 
has prevailed. 


See cabal. 


See calf. 


See show. 

caveat emptor. 

See quaint. 

cavern, cavity. 

See cabal. 


See ancestor. 


See citron. 


See ancestor. 

ceiling, cieling. 

This "sky of the room" was at limes 
spelled as though it comes from Fr. 
cicl, from LL. caelum, sky — influenced, 
some say, by OFr. cieller, from L. 
caelare, to carve. But it was often 
spelled seeling from the early Eng. 
verb to seel, to close with boards. A 
combination is found in a sermon by 
Bishop Hacket, 1675: "Dost thou permit 
us to live in sieled houses?" 

celandine, celidony. 

See cell. 


This word is from L. cella (from 
celare, celat — , to hide; cp. helmet). Used 
of a small compartment, such as the cell 
of a honeycomb, a store-room, slaves' 
quarters or prison ; then of a hermit's 
quarters. A group of cells was L. cellar- 
ium, whence Eng. cellar. (Similar forma- 
tions are aquarium, aqua, water ; solar- 
ium, sol, sun ; apiary, apis, bee ; aviary, 
avis, bird). The diminutive of L. cella, 
L. cellula, is a frequent prefix (cellulo — ) 
in Eng. scientific words ; and gives us 
cellulose, full of little cells. 

The Gr. for the bird, the swallow, was 
chelidon. This gives us the plant celan- 
dine; its juice was supposed to be a cure 
for bad eyes — used by the swallows to 
improve the sight of their young. Also, 
via Gr. chelidonius lit has, (lithos, stone, 
whence lithography ; see carnelian) comes 
celidony, a stone supposedly found in the 
belly of a swallow, and cure for mad- 
ness. Calcedonv, also chalcedony, trans- 
lates the Gr. chalcedon, the precious stone 
in the Bible, Rev. xxi, 19, named as one 
of the foundations of the New Jerusalem. 
This may be the swallow-stone, or from 
the city of Chalcedon in Asia Minor, or 
possibly — since some forms of the word 
are carchedonia, carcedonia — from Gr. 
Karchedon, Carthage. The Gr. word for 
brass was chalk os, which appears (often 
as the prefix chalco — ) in a number of 
Eng. scientific words : chalcopyrit^ has 
nothing to do with books, but is a copper 
ore ; a chalcographer is a man that en- 
graves on copper. The Chaldaic language 
(of Chaldea, Babylon) was Aramaic, 
spoken by the Jews after the Captivity; 
but a Chaldean (from the practice there) 
is a soothsayer, an astrologer ... If he 
charges for his "truths", in some places, 
these days, the Chaldean may find him- 
self in a cell. 

See cell. 




See focus. 


S(^e cell. 


See shed. 


See necromancy. 


See dollar. 


See flower. 

See congress. 

cephalic, cephalo— . 

See lent. 

See crater. 


What you probably have had for 
breakfast this morning is named after 
the daughter of Saturn and Vesta, 
Ceres, the goddess of the harvest. The 
great Eleusinian mysteries celebrate the 
ravishing by Pluto, god of the under- 
world, of Ceres' daughter Proserpine. 
On Ceres' prayer, Jupiter granted Pros- 
erpine leave to spend part of the year 
above ground with her mother. The 
myth symbolizes the sowing of seed 
and the growing of corn. 

cerebellum, cerebrum, cerecloth, cere- 
See crater. 


It is well to behave according to 
thought-out procedure, when (according 
to the principle of karma) all one's 
acts have their inevitable consequence 
in one's own future. Ceremony is from 
Fr., from L. caerimonia : the -noun end- 
ing (as in matrimony, harmony, etc.) 
+ Sansk. karntc, act, work, developed, 
in Hinduism and Buddhism, into the 
idea of the ethical consequence of one's 

It has also been, but less plausibly, 
suggested that L. caerimonia is from 
Caere, a chief city of ancient Etruria, 
whence the Romans derived many of 
their customs and rites. 



See element. 

See element. 

See ancestor. 


See cliaulfcur. 


This was first the skin, or rout^h 
leather from a horse (from Turk. 
saghri, rump of a horse) ; in tliat sense 
it is usually spelled shagreen. But (as 
with tiie idea of gooseflesh) the fig- 
urative sense, as though one were 
rubbed wiili a rough hide, has prevailed. 


See chignon. 

chalcedony, Chaldea, chalco— . 

See cell ; Appendix II. 


See eucalyptus. 


This word has traveled, via OE. chal- 
enge, calenge, OFr. calonge, OSp. calona, 
from L. calumnia, false accusation. The 
original sense remains in Eng. calumny; 
but with the shifting forms came a shift- 
ing meaning. The first use in Eng. was 
an accusation ; but since the old way of 
answering an accusation was to fight a 
duel, to accuse was the same as to sum- 
mon to combat, to challenge. 


It is easy to grasp the reason for the 
first half of this word, from Gr. chamai, 
on the ground, dwarf. It is harder to see 
why it was called Gr. leon, lion (whence 
also Eng. leonine. Lion is via Fr. and 
L., though the Gr. is probably from an 
Egyptian source.) 

The chameleon can move its eyes inde- 
pendently. The color of its skin changes 
with its environment or mood; from this 
characteristic, the name is applied to 
changeable humans. 


See champion. 


See camp; cp. drink. 




See cliampion. 


In tlie days of chivalry, if a lady 
was offended, a knight at once took 
the field to defend her honor. By way 
of L. campus, field, whence LL. catnpio, 
campion — , fighter in the field (arena), 
the knight was called Fr. and Eng. 
champion. Since he remained in the 
field only if successful, the word took 
on its present meaning. The same locale 
for fighting is preserved in the term 
field artillery. See camp. 

Champ, which is sometimes used as 
aphetic for champion, also means to 
chew. This word was earlier cham 
and is probably imitative in origin. It 
is not related to cham, a variant of 
khan, from, Turki and Tatar khan, 
prince. Samuel Johnson was called the 
great Cham of literature. (We may 
note that the Fr. and Eng. champignon, 
mushroom, is from the LL. campinion — , 
of the field.) For chivalry, see 


See cheat. 

chancel, chancellor, chancery. 
See cancel. 


Here is a word with a story in- 
vented to fit its sound. Obviously — 
said the superstitious English of Chau- 
cer's day — this stupid child has been 
changed by the fairies ; they've put 
one of their own instead. Everyone 
knows that the fairies' children seem 
at birth backward of speech, almost 
idiotic. — ling, of course, is the diminu- 
tive; cp. gossip. But it is the diminu- 
tive of OE. change, chang, a fool. The 
word, which occurs several times in the 
Ancren Riwle (Rules for Anchoresses, 
ca. 1225), was forgotten: then the 
story invented to explain what it seemed 
to mean, when a fond mother found 
that her child was a bit foolish. See 
Thames; fond. 


See canon. 


See canto, saunter. To enchant may 
mean either to sing a person into (a 
spell) or to sing against a person; cp. 


Eng. oscines, now a technical word 
for songbirds, earlier, those from whose 
song auguries were taken in ancient 
Rome, is from L. oscen, oscin-, from ob-, 
towards, -\- canere, to sing. 


See gas. 


This is several words, mainly short- 
ened from choP; see color. There is an 
old chop, to barter, AS. ceapian, whence 
Eng. cheap, and earlier chapman, dealer, 
whence Be a good chap. Chop, to cut, 
gives us chip and chapped (cracked) lips. 
Earlier chapfallen is now chopjallen, 
from chap, the lower jaw, which chops 
the food. The plural chaps, among cow- 
boys, is short for Sp. chaparejos, leather 

chapel, chaperon, chaplain, chaplet, 







This first meant a distinctive mark or 
figure. (It was earlier caracter, the verb 
caract, from OFr. caracter, but L. char- 
acter from Gr. charakter, an engraving 
instrument or the mark cut in by it. The 
Eng. word added the A in a later imita- 
tion of the Latin.) Then it was applied to 
a distinctive mark of the personality; 
gradually, to the sum total of such marksi, 
each individual one being called a charac- 
teristic, from the Gr. adjective charak- 
teristikos. Thus a character-actor is one 
that accentuates the distinctive or ec- 
centric features of a figure, instead of 
giving a rounded portrait as of the 
whole man. 

Reputation is from L. reputare, repu- 
tat — , to consider ; from re. again -h 
putare, putat — , to think — wlfjnce also 
putative; cp. curfew. 


.See aboveboard. 

charcoal, charivari. 

See ajar. 


See whole. Charity was first an inner 
love ; then a sign of this feeling ; then 
an action or an act. 

The L. cams, via Fr. via It. carezsa 
from L. caritia. gives us Eng. caress. 




Hence also (Gr. charys. thanks, grace; 
eu-. beautiful, well) the eucharist. 


.? cl abovcboard. 

Charles' wain. 

See arctic. 


See trance. 


See ajar. 


The OE. noun caru gives us Eng. care; 
the adjective from this, OE. cearig, gives 
us chary. The words originally meant 
sorrow and sorry ; from the meaning of 
sorrow, it shifted to trouble; then troubl- 
ing yourself, taking trouble, hence tak- 
ing care, being careful. The same shift 
is evident today in feeling pains in the 
side, and taking pains. The word pain 
shows the olden belief that our troubles 
are the result of our sins; we pay the 
penalty : pain is from Fr. peine, from L. 
poena, penalty. To pine is via AS. piman 
from the same L. poena; its adjective, L. 
penalis, gives us penal, penalty; and, in 
close relation (from L. paenitentia, OFr. 
peneance, Eng. penance; and L. Paenitere, 
present participle paenitent — , to be sorry, 
to repent) penitent and penitentiary, a 
place where you may repent. See also 
trouble; but be chary thereof. 


See purchase. 


See casement. 


See casement, purchase. (Chassis is 
pronounced shassy. ) 

chaste, chasten, chastise. 
See purchase, test. 

See chatter. 


This is an imitative (echoic) word, like 
twitter, jabber. It is abbreviated in chat, 
which is also a milder word; and is re- 
duplicated in chit-chat, a less consequen- 
tial form of chatting. 


See achieve. 


This Fr. word for stoker was applied 
to the drivers of the early (esp. the 
steam-powered) automobiles. It comes 
by way of OFr. chaufer, from L. cale- 
ficare, from calefacere, to heat, from 
calere, to grow warm -|- facere, to make. 
The word chafe (as still, in chafing 
dish) at first meant to warm; then, 
to warm *by rubbing, as the hands. 
Since often one might rub too hard, it 
came to mean to chafe the skin, to 
irritate. Similarly we caution someone, 
"Don't get hot !" 

Caldron, cauldron, from ME. caudron 
is by way of OFr. chaudron, caudron, 
from L. caldarium, pot, from caldus, 
from calidus, hot. When you put things 
in a cauldron, watch your calories! 


Nicholas Chauvin, one of Napoleon's 
veterans, was so demonstrative in his 
patriotism that he became a bit laugh- 
able. Cogniard built a vaudeville around 
him (La Cocarde Tricolore, 18il), 
and the word slipped into the language. 
The use of jingoism in the same sense, 
and of a jingo, dates from a popular 
music-hall song of 1878: 

We don't want to fight. 

Yet by Jingo! if we do, 

We've got the ships and we've got the 

And got the money too. 

Hey Jingo! or High Jingo! had since 
the 16th c. been a conjurer's cry to 
make something appear ; the opposite of 
Hey presto! Some suggest it was 
brought into Eng. by sailors, from 
jinko, the Basque word for God. 


See pylorus. 

See chap. 


In Eng. feudal law, if a man died 
without proper heirs, his possessions 
reverted to the lord. This transfer was 
called escheat (OFr. escheoite. from 
escheoir, from LL. excadere, to fall 
out, from ex, out -f- cadere, casu. fall 
Since all disappointed claimants know 
that they have been defrauded of their 




just due, the word came to have its 
nrcsciit meaning, cheat. 

Tlic L. cadere, casu, fall, gives us 
via I.L. cadentia, whence OFr. cheance, 
Lng. chance, applied even by the 
ancients to the fall of dice (more 
honest, it seems, than the lord's law- 
yers!). Something of little concern, 
mat can be left to the fall of the dice, 
is casual; those that fall in more seri- 
uns baitlc are nonetiielcss casualties. 
An vcca.^ion (L. oh, whence oc -\- cas — ) 
is tliat which falls in your path; from 
Occident — , the present participle of oe- 
cidcrc, we name the place where the 
sun falls at night, the accident. Ac- 
cording to the position (falling together) 
of the stars, what befalls is (L. aa, 
to, whence ac) an accident; but cp. 
affluent. A cheat avoids taking chances, 
but may thaiik liis lucky stars! 

check, checkers, checkmate. 

Sec exchequer. 


See cheesecake. The expression "He 
thinks he's the big cheese" seems to be 
Anglo-Indian, from Hindustani chiz, 


<'akc is an old Teut. word, ON. 
kaka; Du. koek, diminutive koekje, 
v.hence Eng. cookie — though the Eng. 
developed tlie delicacy by themselves; 
cp. Dutch. Cheese is even older, froio 
AS. ciese, from L. caseus, whence Eng. 
casein. From the practice of the bright 
restaurants along Broadway, in New 
York's theatre district, of having a 
large cheesecake as the main window 
display, the word was transferred (in 
cinema and newspaper and theatre 
slanp;) to the main display in their 
publicity, i.e., the lithe and lively legs 
ot the actress. Rosamond Gilder (in 
ihc Theatre Library Association Broad- 
side) reminds us that cheesecake, like 
little girls, is made of 
Sugar and spice 
And all things nice — 
and points out that pretty Nell Gwyn, 
in tlie epilogue to a tragedy, protested : 

Nay, what's worse, to kill me in the 

Of Easter-term, in Tart and Cheesecake 

time ! 

Which perhaps kills two birds, but not 
to sing in a pie. First current use is 

credited to reporter Joe Marshland, of 
celebrities sitting cross-legged on a 
ship's rail. 

Tart is three words. -For the cake, 
from Fr. tarte, see torch. The ad- 
jective tart, sour, biting, bitter, is from 
OE. teart. The slang expression for a 
disreputable woman combines the sense 
of the bitter taste from the adjective 
with a shortening of sweetheart (a 
short sweetheart is a tart). 


See shimmy. The diminutive chemisette 
is also used. 


The modem chemist prides himself 
on being scientific, on having cut off 
the mystic magic and mummery of the 
medieval alchemist. He has cut down 
but not escaped the golden taint ; his 
name is aphetic for LL. alchiinista, 
from Arab, al kimiya. Arab, al means 
the, as in alcohol, algebra, etc. The 
remainder of the word may be from 
Gr. Chemia, Egypt, from Kym, the 
Egyptian god of the Nile ; it is at least 
influenced by Gr. chein, to pour, whence 
Gr. cheimeia, transmutation of metals, 
the goal of the alchemist, achieved by 
the chemist. 


See cloth. 


See peach. 

cherrystone (clams). 
See Appendix II. 


See exchequer. 

See Castanet. 


Sec cloth. 


See pylorus. 


See drink. 


(From the Italian, the first sound is k.) 
Painting that presents high lights 
against deep shades; writing that con- 
trasts quick joy with sudden sorrow, ma> 




be called chiaroscuro — from It. chiaro + 
oscuro, from L. clarus and obscurtis. The 
L. clarus, bright, gives us clarity; and, 
via OFr. cler, Eng. clear. The L. ob- 
sqiirus, dark, remains in obscurity. 

It. chiaretto, diminutive of chiaro, be- 
came in Fr. claret, diminutive of clair 
The diminutive was applied (Fr. vin 
claret) to a wine neither white nor red, 
but yellowish or very pale red. Since 
the 17th c, however, it has been applied 
to red wines, and is the name of the color 
reddish-violet. See red! 


This creature, destroyed (like the dodo) 
by a civilized world, was once, with its 
male male, the bycorne, a popular mena- 
gerie figure. (Fr. vache, cow, came in by 
popular etymology; first it was chiche- 
fache, from Fr. chincheface, thin-face : a 
mythical creature with which to scare 
naughty children into being good.) 
Chaucer, m-The Clerk's Tale, and Lyd- 
gate in a poem. ca. 1430, called Bycorne 
and Chichevache, give the true story. 
The bycorne was a monster fed only 
with patient husbands; hence he was al- 
ways fat. The chichevache, his spouse, 
fed only on patient wives ; she was always 
starving. [Note also that in the inter- 
lude of The Four P's, by Heywood, 
1497 ?_1 580?, the Palmer wins the prize 
for telling the biggest lie by declaring 
that he never knew, and in all his travels 
(a palmer is one that wears a palm as 
a sign that he has made the pilgrimage to 
the Holy Land) has never heard tell, of 
a woman out of patience. How times have 
changed !1 

Dodo is from Port, doudo. stupid. 
Menagerie first meant the management of 
domestic animals. Manage meant to han- 
dle, from L. manus, hand, but was early 
influenced by menage, from OFr. mesnage, 
from LL. form mansionaticum, manage- 
ment of the mansion; cp. remnant. And 
watch for the chichevache! 


See child. 

chief, chieftain. 

Sec achieve. 

chiffon, chiffonier. 

This is directly from the Fr., meaning 
a place where women put away their 
odds and ends of cloth. Chiffon is also 
Fr., the diminutive of chiffe, rag — being 
originally an odd piece of cloth, esp. one 
used to add on a frill or other adorn- 
ment to a dress. Hence, the present use 
for a very sheer cloth. Cp. cloth. 


This coil of hair at the nape of milady's 
neck, popular in various periods (1780, 
1870, 1944) was worn in the 13th c. too, 
when it was Fr. chaaignqn, a variant of 
chainon, link of a chain, from Fr.. chaine. 
chain. {Chain is by that path from L. 
catena, chain.) The name is rather from 
its shape than from the fact that it is 
worn to bind the men. 


This word exists only in English ; the 
other Teut. tongues use forms like G. 
Kind; cp. racy. Child is esp. the "fruit 
of the womb ;" its direct source, OE. 
cild, is related to Goth, kilpci, womb; 
inkilpo, woman with child. Thus we have 
also childbirth (not babybirth) ; and while 
child-wife means a wife that is a child, 
childzvife means a wife that's just had 
one. It is interesting, though children 
may not deem it relevant, to note that 
chide also exists .only in English. 


This word, early in Eng. (OE. cele, 
ciele) from the 9th to the 14th c. was 
the regular Eng word for cold. Then it 
dropped out of use for about two hun- 
dred years, replaced by cold; when it 
returned, it was applied esp. to the feeling 
of cold within the body, depressingly cold 
— though also in technical uses, as to 
chill cast-iron (note that in this applica- 
tion, it refers to the making of metals 
less hot, but also to the making of liquids 
less cold : Dickens' speaks of chilling beer 
at the fire.) 

Chill, cool, and cold are really triplets. 
They come from the Teut. stem kal — . 
Via OE. ciele comes chill; via OE. cald 
come early cauld and cold; via the form 
kol — comes cool. The stem is cognate 
with L. gel — , whence Eng. gelid; cp. 

Cold-blooded creatures are those whose 
temperature matches that of their atmos- 
phere (fishes, reptiles) ; applied to per- 
sons, this means without passion, esp. of 
cruel or passionate acts performed with- 
out emotional stir, in cold blood. Thus 
of an angry man it is said (and was 
formerly believed) that his blood boils. 


Tlie terror has gone out of this 
word ; its imaginary nature remains 
stressed. The Chimera (Gr. chimaira, 
she-soat) was a mythical monster, with 
three heads that darted flame, uniting 
the forms of the lion, the goat, and 
tlie dragon. 




The L. for a furnace or oven was 
cominus; a room equipped with one was 
camera caminata. This was abbreviated 
in LL. to caminata, which became OFr. 
chemirtee; whence Eng. chimney. The 
word first meant a room with a fireplace ; 
then (as the distinguishing feature of the 
room, the word was transferred) a fire- 
place; then by another transfer, the 
smoke-hole over the fireplace. 


This was a widespread word: OE. 
cin; Gr. genys; Sansk. hanus, the lower 
jaw. Wagging the lower jaw is chin- 
ning; hence, talking a lot. Chin-chin, 
however, an oriental Eng. term for greet- 
ing, is from Chinese ts'ing ts'ing. 

Chinaman's chance. 

Tliis is very indirectly related to the 
Chinese. Eng. Chinaman is a dealer in 
porcelain, China ware — which came to 
us via Pcis. chini. The correlative ex- 
pression, a bull in a chinashop, indicates 
the chance that a Chinaman has. 


This word does not appear in Eng. 
before the 16th c. In the sense of a small 
crack or split, it replaced an earlier Eng. 
chine, with the same meaning, from OE. 
cinu, from tlie root ^t — , to burst open. 
However, the chink of metal is an echoic 
word, and there may be some relation 
between the sound and the fissure — as the 
echoic word crack came also to mean a 
breaking, or the resultant iplit. Cp. 
crunch: financ*. 


See cloth. 

See color. 

See Appendix II. 


See pedagogue. 


See shed. 


See chatter. 
see scurry. 


See cavalier. 

For reduplicated words, 


chlorine, chlorophyll. 
See element; yellow. 


See vanilla. 


See exquisite. 


See complexion. 

See Valkyrie. 


See color. 


Sec prestige. 


See ajar, 

chorea, choreography. 

Sec exquisite. 


See dismal. 


See exquisite. 


See clam. 

Christ, christen, Christian, Christmas. 

See cream. 

chromatic, chromiom. 

See element. 

See crony. 

See anthem. 

See camelian. 

See laugh. 


See calculate. 


The Greeks had at least three words 
for this. One of them, ekklesia, first the 
general assembly of Athens, became Fr. 
iglise, church ; in Eng. it abides in ec- 



clesiastic, q.v. Another, basilike, gave us 
Eng. basilica; cp. bazooka. A third was 
Gr. kuriakon doma, house of the Lord 
{kuriakon is from kurios, lord. Doma, L. 
donvum, gives us domestic, etc. ; cp. 
dome.). From the first word of this, 
kuriakon, by a long trail over Teutonic 
Europe (the Romance and Celtic tongues 
took the word ekklesia) came Sc. kirk 
and Eng. church. The early spellings 
chirche, circe, made some think the word 
was from L. circus; it was first applied 
to the grounds and building, then (as a 
translation of ekklesia) to the members. 


See neighbor. 

See cream. 

chyle, chyme. 

These two scientific terms are borrowed 
directly from the Greek, both from the 
root ky — , to pour. Both meant juice; 
Galen (Gr. physician of the 2d c. A.D.) 
used chyme of the raw juice, and chyle 
of the juice produced by digestion; we 
have followed his practice. 


This word for a professional guide 
is drawn from the Roman orator, Mar- 
cus Tullius Cicero, because the con- 
stant flow of words of the guides re- 
minded men of Cicero's eloquence 
(perhaps with tinge of satire). Cicero's 
eloquence led to his execution (43 B.C.) 
by the triumvirate that brought Julius 
Caesar to power. 


You know the old story of the young 
man that saw a pretty girl, sat down be- 
side her, and they sucked cider through a 
straw. And 

Pretty soon the straw did slip ; 
I sucked sweet cider from her lip. 
That's how I got me a mother-in-law, 
From sucking cider through a straw. 

Others achieve it in other fashions. If 
it drives you to strong drink, you are 
just going back to cider, which is from 
the Heb. shekar, strong drink, translated 
into Gr. sikera, then L. sicera. This be- 
came LL. cisera, and It. sidro, cidro; 
OSp. sizro; OE. sither, sidre. In refer- 
ences to the Vulgate, where it kept the 
meaning of strong drink, the form sicer 
was common in early Eng. (as shicker is 
slang for intoxicated) ; but the meaning 


softened very early to the fermented juice 
of apples, our cider. 

The Heb. shicker, from which we bor- 
row the word, is akin not only to shekar 
but to Heb. shagah, to go astray, to be 
intoxicated; whence also the Heb. word 
we have borrowed as the slang for one 
gone awry, meshuga. 

cigar, cigarette. 

See nicotine. 

cilia, ciliary. 

See supercilious. 


See precinct. 

cinder, Cinderella. 

See incinerator. 


See salary. 


This word is from Arab, sifr, empty, 
nil. When Arab, numerals came into 
European use, through Sp. cifra, whence 
Fr. chiffre, whence Eng. cipher, it 
came to mean to figure by use of the 
Arab, numerals; whence also decipher, 
to figure out. But the great addition 
to our earlier figures was precisely 
the cipher, O : from Arab, sifr came 
LL. zephyrum; Sp. cero, whence It. 
zero, whence Fr. zero, whence Eng. 
zero. Thus zero is a doublet of cipher. 
Zephyr, a light breeze, is direct : Fr., 
from L., from Gr. zephyros, the west 
(mild) wind; hence, a light yarn. 


Se^ circus. 

See circus. 

See agnostic, refrain. 

See state, tank. 


See prevent. 


The Circus (by which the Romans 
usually meant the Circus Maximus, larg- 
est ring, the great building at Rome) 
was first an oval or oblong building, en- 
circled by rising tiers of seats; then (like 
the Greek theatre) an open arena; then 




the company of performers. The word 
is L. circus (the accusative, circum, forms 
the L. prefix circum — , around, as in Eng. 
circumference : ferre, to carry, related to 
Eng. fare and AS. ferian, to carry, 
whence Eng. ferry; cp. dollar), from Gr. 
kirkos, krikos, ring — which remain in 
scientific Eng. in the cricoid (krikos + 
-eides, -form) cartilage and the prefix 
crico — . Thus a "three-ring circus" re- 
peats itself. 

A small ring was L. circulus, diminu- 
tive of circus; whence early Eng. circul, 
used of the heavenly courses in early 
astronomy. Through Fr. cercle (also 
from L. circulus) this shifted to ME. 
sergle, cercle, etc. ; then the i was re- 
stored through Renaissance study of 
Latin, giving us the present spelling, 
circle. This is a rather circuitous course 
— though circuit comes from L. circum — 
-j- ire, it — , to go ; cp. obituary. 

Gr. kuklos, kyklos, circle, gives us Eng. 
cycle. But it also gives the name of the 
Ku Klux Klan, organized in Tennessee, 
1867. Clan is clann in Gaelic, but plant in 
Welsh, springing from L. planta, sprout, 
stock, which of course directly gives us 
Eng. plant, q.i). Despite the secrecy, it 
is unrelated to clandestine , which via L. 
clandestinus comes from L. clam, secretly 
— which in turn is unrelated to the bi- 
valve with tightly closed lips, Eng. clam 
(q.v.). But that's no circus! 


See cloud. 

citation, cite. 
See exact. 


See peach. The L. citrus, citron-tree, 
is from Gr. kitron, probably related to 
Gr. kedron, cedar (applied to a number 
of trees), and both probably of eastern 
origin. The citron seems to have come 
west from Media. 


Shakespeare has Touchstone, teasing the 
country Corin in As You Like It (III, 
ii, 69), tell him that "civet is of a baser 
birth than tar — the very uncleanly flux 
of a cat." (Little did he anticipate tha.t 
tar would supplant civet as a source of 
perfume!) The animal was probably 
named from the secretion (out of glands 
in the anal pouch) ; via Fr. civette from 
LL, sibethum and Gr. zapetion, from 
Arab, zabad, zubad. This is related to 
Arab, zubd, froth, zubbard, cream. The 
animal — and sometimes the person drench- 

ed in the perfume — was calkd a civet- 

civil, civilian, civility. 

Sec police. 


.Vc'^ cliche. 


The simplest way of claiming what is 
your due is to cry out for it. And claim 
is (via OFr. claimer) from L. clamare, 
clamat — , to cry out, to declare aloud. 
Hence, from the noun form, Eng. clamor. 
With the prefix ex — , out, we have also 
exclaim and exclamation. By transfer 
from the claiming to the thing claimed, 
the miner stakes his claim, his plot of 


See improvised. 


If you've ever had a shellfish clamp 
down on your finger, you will under- 
stand that the word clamp is from a 
Teut. stem klam — , klamb — , to squeeze 
together. From the same source comes 
clam, which first meant anything that 
holds tight (as keeping one in bonds), 
then the bivalve, then a number of ob- 
jects and instruments that resemble (in 
shape or in squeezing power) the chow- 
dery clam. 

The sound of striking the ground gives 
us several echoic words, clamp, clump, 
stamp. The clump of trees, which means 
a growth so close together as to seem 
one mass, is from ODu. clompe, lump 
(this shapeless mass is probably the 
origin of Eng. lump), ON. klumba, klub- 
ba, whence Eng. club : to clump is to 
tramp heavily and clumsily along (AS. 
clum — is related to clam, but clumsy is 
influenced also by ME. clumsed, from 
clumsen, to be numb), and Ehi. klomp is 
a wooden shoe made of a single lump 
of wood ; also clog. To stamp on some- 
thing was AS. stempan, to pound ; whence 
also the milder step. Though this is of 
Teut. origin, it went into the Romance 
tongues. It. stampare, Sp. estampar, 
whence Sp. estampxda, stamping, whence 
via its special use in Mexico our Eng. 
stampede. The Fr. form, estamper, to im- 
press, came back to influence some mean- 
ings of the Teut., as in our postage stamp 
(which first was a note stamped on, as we 
now "cancel" the stamp). 

Perhaps associated with the bivalve 
clam is OE. clam, mud; there was an 




early verb to clamm, to smear (also, from 
OE. claeman, to cleatn) ; the interaction 
of these forms survives in the word 
clammy, like your hands when you are 
nervous. This seems to come from a root 
kit — , to stick : OE. clam and claeg, 
whence also Eng. clay and cloam. (Note 
that loam and lime are similarly related; 
and cognate with L. limus, mud, and L. 
liner e, to smear, whence liniment; cp. 
police.) OTeut. kli — and klaija — , to 
stick, are cognate with Gr. glia, sticky ; 
kolla, glue ; cp. crystal; L. glus, glut — , 
bird-lime, whence Eng. glue, gluten, ag- 
glutinate (L. agglutinare, agglutinat — , to 
stick to : ag, ad, to). The process of stick- 
ing one simple word to another to form 
a compound {e.g., pickpocket) is agglu- 
tination. Also see clench; cp. cleave. 

Gr. glia may (through honey?) be re- 
lated to Gr. glykys, sweet, which gives 
us many Eng. words : glucose, full of 
sweet; glycerine; glycol {glycerine tele- 
scoped with alcohol) ; and words com- 
bined with glyco — and glycero — . 

Hot from the Fr. word for cauldron, 
chaudiere {cp. chauffeur) we have clam 


See climate. 

clammy, clamp. 
See clam. 


See claim. 

clan, clandestine. 

See circus. 

clang, clank. 

See clench. 


See clasp. 


See catchpenny. 


See cliche. 

See chiaroscuro. 

See chiaroscuro. 

See clasp. 


This seems to be a corruption of elapse, 
an echoic word, like clap, clash, smack, 
smash, splash. The sound would be that 
of metal fitting together, as the clasp of 
a bracelet, or parts of armor. From the 
bracelet, the sense of embrace ; cp. bras- 

class, classic. 

This word has sfiifted meaning many 
times, and has had various explana- 
tions. NED. traces it to L. classicus, 
of a class — then explains "of the high- 
est class." It adds that the word was 
later influenced by the sense of school 
class, referring to works taught in the 
classes; this meaning was dominant in 
the Renaissance. Later it was sug- 
gested that classic refers to anything 
representative of a class, that is, of a 
category, a generalization: the presenta- 
tion of something universal. 

Simply, it was used by the Romans 
(L. classicus, from Gr. klesis, division, 
from Gr. kalein, to summon) of the (six) 
divisions into which the Roman people 
were grouped; hence a class is a division, 
group, as in the school classroom; or as 
in the general class or category. 

Aulus Gellius in the 2d c. A.D. used 
scriptor classicus as opposed to scriptor 
proletarius {cp. world) ; hence, scriptor 
classicus, classical writer, meant aristo- 
cratic. Later the sense was influenced by 
the idea "taught in the classroom." Since 
the humanists thought only the Greek and 
Roman works were worth such study, we 
have the classics. 


See defeat. 


See close. 

claustrophobia, clavicle, claw. 

S'f'c ;)yloriis. 

Related to L. claudere is clavis, key; 
thus L. conclave, inner room, referred to 
persons locked together, as the cardinals 
when they name a pope. Hence, Eng. 
conclave. See close. 

See clam. 


See chiaroscuro. 


Considered as one, this is another word 
that means its own opposite. It is, how- 



ever, really two distinct words : cleave, 
clove, cloven, cleft; and cleave, cleaved. 

The former is OE. cliofan, from an 
OTeut. form kleuth, to cut with a blow 
(as wood along the grain) ; related to Gr. 
glyphein, to cut, carve; cp. hieroglyphics. 
The latter is OE. tlifan, clifian, to cling, 
related to the OTeut. root kli—, to stick ; 
see clam. This also developed an OTeut. 
klimban, to get up by grasping and cling- 
ing, whence Eng. climb, probably unre- 
lated to climax and climate, q.v. But 
klimban had the noim forms klith, cleofu, 
clifu, whence Eng. cliff (sometimes clift, 
as it grew intertwined with cleft, from 
cleave) . 


See cleave. 


The basic Teut. root kli—, to stick 
{see clam) is prolific. By way of OE. 
clinken it gives us Eng. clink, to fasten; 
and through the OE. variant clingen 
a form now more common, cling. The 
Teut. causal form klankjen led to OHG. 
chlankhan, whence Eng. clench, a later 
variant of which is clinch. You clench 
your teeth but clinch a nail ; clench your 
fists, then get in a clinch. 

Clang, clank, clink, the sounds, are 
echoic words. The Clink was (first?) a 
notorious prison in Southwark, England; 
then clink was used of any hole of a jail ; 
probably it combines the clinking sound 
and the clinking clutch of the chains. 


See drip. 

clergy, clerk. 

See shark. 


One guess connects this word witli 
ME. diver, claw, as though it meant 
quick with the hands, handy. But 
earlier there was widely used Eng. 
deliver or de liver ly, from LL. deliberate, 
freed from, tlierefore unhindered, adept. 
By pronunciation changes ( ? d'liverly 
. . . g liver ly . . . cleverly) it reached 
the present form. This is perhaps more 
glibly t!ian scientifically suggested; but 
to trace the history of many words 
one must indeed be clever. Cp. liberty. 



Used in Eng. to mean stercotyt^t'd 
(cp. stern), this word has a round- 
about story. The three words used in 
English were first French. Claque 
imitates the sound of flat hands strik- 
ing; then it was used of a group hired 
to applaud, in the theatre. The shorter 
sound, clique, was similarly later ap- 
plied to a group of "intriguers. (( . 
and clack, in Eng., are used only for 
the sounds.) But Fr. cliquer, to strike, 
had a doublet dicker; then this was 
applied, as though a print were made 
with the flat of the hand, to the process 
of printing from a metal plate, of 
stereotyping. And the past participle, 
cliche, developed in Fr. and was thus 
borrowed in Eng., the sense of repeated 
time and again, hence trite. 


See cliche. Clickety-dack continues 
the imitation. 


See cleave. 


Eng. climb (OE. climban; related to 
cleave, q.v. : cp. ON. klifa, to clamber, 
to stick) comes from the root kli. The 
same root is in the Gr. klinein, to slope, 
which led (Gr. klima, klimat — ) to Eng. 
climate, as the Greeks thought that the 
eartli sloped towards the north pole 
and that this affected the weather of 
the various regions. The relation be- 
tween climb and climate is only by the 
root. However, the same Gr. word also 
led to (Gr. klimax, ladder) our climax, 
or ascending series — now often limited 
to the last rung, or the peak of the 
series. From the Gr. verb, by way of 
the L. — dinare, — dinat — , we have 
several words: incline; decline; recline. 
Also, from Gr. proklitikos, pro, toward 
-|- klinein, slope, we have Eng. proclitic, 
and via L. clivus, slope, the figurative 
prodix'ity, an inclination, tendency. De- 
clivity has retained the literal sense. 

climax, climb. 

See cleave, climate. 

See clench. 


.See Europe. 


See clench. 




This first meant a person confined to 
his bed, from Gr. klinikos, from kline, a 
bed, from klinein, to bend; whence also 
incline, recline, decline (to bend away, 
hence refuse). Then, from clinic baptism, 
it was used of a person that put off his 
conversion until his death-bed. As a 
namesake of mine remarks (O. Shipley, 
Glossary of Ecclesiastical Terms, 1872), 
"Aspersion was allowed of old in clinic 
baptism." (See aspersion.) The first use 
in medicine was in clinic teaching, the 
demonstration of the art of medicine at 
the bedside of the patient ; thence, the cur- 
rent use. 

Monoclinic crystals (e.g., mica, gypsum, 
borax, cane sugar) have one plane of 
symmetry. And clino — is a prefix, to mean 
sloping, as in clinometer, that measures 
inclines; but clinoid means shaped like a 
bed — on yours, I hope, "no pillow resigns 
and politely declines to remain at its usual 
angle !" Cp. climate. 


See clench. 


This fast sailing ship (now used of 
airships as well) may be related to the 
common Teut. clip, to cut, as the boat 
cuts through the water. But it is 
pleasant to think that it may come 
down from Cleopatra. One of the early 
French ships of the type was called 
Cleopatra-cum-Antonio. Of course no 
one would keep a name like that ; the 
sailors quickly shortened it to Clipster; 
then to Clipper — whence the name was 
given to the type. 


See cliche. 

cloak, clock. 

See palliate. 

See cloud. 


See clam, log. 


See close. 


This word, in all its forms, is from L. 
claudere, claus — , to close. (The adjective 
has kept the s sound, as it has always 
been the final sound ; the verb took on the 
2 sound as it came from L. clusa via OE. 


clusen, clysen — then, through the influence 
of Fr. clore, clos, to Eng. close.) The 
diminutive of close (a confined place) is 
closet. Other derivatives are closure, en- 
close, enclosure; include (L. includere 
from in, in -\- claudere), preclude (L. 
prae, before; hence to shut off. shut out). 

The first sense of the adjective was 
shut, hence also confined, (dungeon 
close) ; secluded (L. se — apart, -(- claud- 
ere) ; secret, stingy (c/oj^-fisted). Then, 
if all the spaces are closed up, things must 
be compact, or near ; hence, close combat ; 
cling close; and give your close attention. 

A recluse is one closed away (L. re, 
back). To close altogether (L. con, com, 
together, used as an intensive; cp. com- 
mence) is to conclude. With which we 

On second thought, let's look a little 
farther. Via LL. claustrium comes Eng. 
cloister. From L. clavus, nail (with 
which things are closed) because of its 
shape we name the spice clove. From 
L. excludere, exclusus (whence Eng. ex- 
clude and exclusive) via OFr. escluse, 
something that shuts, out, comes Eng. 
sluice. To spike a gun, drive a nail in, 
was Fr. enclouer; coming into Eng. as 
accloy, this was used figuratively of 
stuffing so full the value was gone, that 
is, to cloy. And a closed section of a 
sentence is a clause. See claustrophobia. 

closet, closure. 
See close. 


This is an old Teut. word, AS. clathe, 
though the vowel may be influenced 
by Clotho, one of the three Parcae, the 
Fates, that weave hyman destinies. 
Lachesis, (from Gr. lagchanein, to give 
by lot) spins the thread of life; Clotho, 
(from Gr. clothein, to wind thread) 
holds the distaff; and Atropos, (from 
Gr. a, not + tropos, turning : the un- 
yielding) cuts off the thread and ends 
the life. The names of the types of 
cloth were more variously developed. 
Often the place from which the mate- 
rial came was added to the word 
cloth, then the latter dropped : thus 
Calicut cloth, whence calico. Similarly, 
cambric, from Cambray, in Flanders : 
there is a more recently developed cloth 
called chambray : cashmere, from Kash- 
mir; chevio-t, from the Cheviot Hills; 
cretonne, from C re ton, Normandy ; 
damask, from Damascus (whence also 
donasccne or damaskeen steel and 
swords, the latter influenced by the 




idea of keen) ; denim is cloth de Nintes, 
France ; duffel, whence duffel bag, from 
Duffel, near Antwerp; frieze, from 
I-'rtcsland (the architectural frieze is, 
from Fr. frisc, from Fhrygia) : gauze, 
from Gaza in Palestine; jersey (the 
material and the garment made there- 
from) from Jersey, England; lawn, 
from Laon, France; lisle, from Lille, 
France; madras, from Madras, India; 
melton (as in melton jacket) from 
Melton Mowbray, hunting place in 
Leicestershire, England; muslin, from It. 
inussolina, a diminutive, from Mosul, 
Mesopotamia; nankeen, from Nankin, 
China. Silk is via OE. siuloc, from L. 
sericus, from L. from Gr. Seres, the 
eastern race (Chinese?) that supplied 
the ancient Europeans; later, therefore 
without change from r to /, the same 
source via OFr. sarge gave us serge. Also, 
sleazy, from Silesia; worsted, from a 
parish in Norfolk, England; poplin, 
from Fr. popeline, from It. papalino, 
first made at Avignon, a papal seat ; 
tulle, from Tulle, France. 

So many cloths have been named 
from places that cities are suggested for 
some that have other origin : thus 
buckram, from Bokhara — but from Fr. 
bovgran, from It. bucherame, from 
hucherarc, to make holes in (Fr. 
bouche, mouth), from its coarseness; 
satin via Arab, zaytuni (Marco Polo 
called it Zaitun), from Chin. Tzu-t'ing, 
a great medieval seaport, now Chuan- 
chow — but satin, from It. setino panno, 
bristly cloth, from L. saeta, bristle ; 
gingham is not from Guincamp, France, 
but from Malay gingan, striped. Dimity 
is not from Damietta, Egypt, but, from 
It. diutiti, plural of LL. dimitum, from 
Gr. dimitos, of double thread, from di, 
two + mitos, thread. Here also twill, 
earlier twilly (AS. twi, two), translat- 
ing L. hilix, from bi, two -f- licium, 
thread ; tweed is a mistake for tweel 
(the So. sound of twill) influenced 
by the river Tzveed, near which it was 
made. Drill, earlier drilling, from G. 
drillich, translates L. trilix, of triple 
thread. Cp. biscuit. 

Baldachin, baldaquin, a rich embroid- 
ered stuf?, LL. baldakinus, may be from 
Baldacco, Italian name for Baghdad. But 
it was also spelled baudekin, and is at 
least associated with Eng. bauderia, live- 
liness, and bawdry, finery, also (from 
bawd) loose bahavior. 

Alpaca is the animal, Sp. alpaco, 
from al, the -|- Am. Indian pace ?, red. 
Broacade is from Sp. brocado, from 

brucare, to pick. Chenille is little cater- 
pillar iq.v.), from L. caniculum, dimin- 
utive ot canis, dog. Chints is, from 
chints, plural of chint, from Sansk. 
cliitra, pied (cp. pie). Cotton is just 
Sp. qoton, from Arab, qutn, the native 
name of the material. Crape, crepe is OFr. 
crespe, crisp, curled, from L. crispus, 
crisp, cognate with OHG. rispen, to 
curl. Georgette is from Mme Georgette 
de la Plante, a 19th c. French modiste. 
Pile is from L. pilus, hair, whence 
pilosus, hairy ; from this via Fr. peluche 
comes plush. And velvet is from Fr. 
veluet, diminutive of velu, shaggy, from 
L. villus, nap ; whence L. villosus, full 
of nap, whence Eng. velours. Crino- 
line is from L. crinus, mane -{- linum, 
linen, flax ; thus Eng. linen. Khaki 
(first the cloth, then the color) is 
from Hind, khaki, dusty: the English 
Guide Corps in India, about 1850, dir- 
tied their white uniforms to make them 
less visible. Mohair changed its last 
syllable from the hair in the cloth; 
it is from Arab, mukliayyar, the chosen, 
past participle of khayyara, to prefer, 
applied to a cloth of goat's hair. The 
same word, through OFr. mouaire, 
gives us moire. Pongee suggests a 
fine quality, from North Chinese 
pun-chi, own loom. Taffeta via OFr. 
taffetas is from Pers. taftah, woven, 
from taftan, to twisi, to spin. Voile 
(pronounced voyi, iroin Fr. voile, pro- 
nounced vwahl) is the same word as 
veil, from L. velum, sail, curtain, cov- 
ering; whence Eng. reveal (L. rt, 
back). Other terms for cloths are more 
figurative. Gabardine is from gaber- 
dine, pilgrim's cloak, from OFr. galvar- 
dine, from MHG. wallevart, whence G. 
wallfahrt, pilgrimage, from wallen, to 
wander -|- fahren, fahrt, to journey, to 
fare ("pilgrims" were often just wan- 
dering beggars) ; but see also cabal. 
Nainsook is from Hin. nainsukh, from 
nain, eye-\-sukh, from Sansk. sukha, 
delight : delight of the eye. Seersucker 
is from Pers. shir u sukkar, milk and 
sugar, said of a striped cloth. There is 
dispute as to the origin of corduroy. 
It might be, from Fr. corBe du rot, 
the king's cloth, but it seems to have 
existed earlier in England than in 
France. It might be from the (ME.) 
proper name, Corderoy, king's heart. 
A final suggestion is that it is a 
shortening of colourderoy, from Fr. 
couleur du rot, the king's color. At 
any rate, it was early deemed a kingly 



Among leathers, Morocco and Cor- 
dovan {Cordova, Spain) show their 
origin ; both, while the Arabs flourished 
there. Of the great Umayyad prince 
Atlab, however, from whom a quarter 
in Baj,'hdad was named, and from that 
quarter came also attabi, whence tabi, a 
sirii)ed cloth, all that is left in Eng. 
is the tabby cat ! Cp. tabby. 


Those floating masses of vapour in the 
sky were named for their most frequent 
or most pleasant shape, the cumulus; cp. 
accumulate. For the OE. clud meant a 
rock, or hill ; basically, a mass of earth — 
from it comes also Eng. clod. Applied 
figuratively to the heaped mass in the 
sky, technically called cumulus (L. cumu- 
lus, mound,), it was used so commonly 
in this sense that it lost its first, literal 
meaning. The cirrus cloud is from L. 
cirrus, curl, fringe ; the word is used also 
in botany, and gives us the combining 
prefix cirr — , cirrh — (the second being 
from the mistaken thought that the word 
was not Latin but Greek. Like the 
calends — cp. dickey — it does not exist in 
Greek.) The nimhus is probably a tele- 
scoping of L. imber, rain, and L. nebula, 
cloud, whence Eng. nebular and nebulous. 
For stratus, see trophy. 

See salary, close. 


See cleave. From the Greek goat-foot 
gods (Pan and the satyrs) came the 
Christian demons, hence the devil betray- 
ed by his cloven feet. 


The poet Gay gaily pictures clover 
as "the cloven grass;" but its back- 
ground is rather within-doors. It is 
(from the shape) OE. claver, from 
AS. claefre, the clubs at cards. Hence 
one that wins a good game is said to 
be in clover! 


See close. 

See clam. 


See laugh. 


See Europe. 


clump, clumsy. 
See clam. 


See vanilla. It now is accepted, how- 
ever, that coach is via G. Kutsche, from 
Hung. Koszi, the town where the ve- 
hicle was first developed. A coach in 
studies or athletics is one who carries 
you along; the meaning is drawn by 
figure from the stage-coacA. 


See absquatulate. The past tenses of L. 
coagulare, coaxi, coactus, play no part in 
the college cry Brekecoax coax coax! 
This frequent roar from cheering squads 
at college games is from the chorus of 
the frogs, in ^ Aristophanes' Frogs, 450 
B.C. : Brekekekex coax coax, cries Diony- 
sus, outcroaking the frogs as he is ferried 
over the Styx on his journey to bring 
Euripides back to earth. (The coax of 
the cry is in two syllables, even though 
the shouters are trying to coax the team 
along. Our verb coax was first a noun, 
cokes, a fool; then the verb, to make a 
cokes of. This is perhaps a shortening of 
cokeney; see cockney; or from Fr. co- 
casse, silly, which the French also derive 
from coq, cock : an echoic word ; cp. 
coquette.) But just as a watched pot 
never boils, you can't coax a fluid to 
coagulate. See ache. 

coalesce, coalition. 

■Sec world. 

See accost. 


See coagulate. 

See element. 


See vamp. 


This is (via Port, cobra de capello, 
snake with hood; cp. achieve) from L. 
coluber, snake. Eng. uses coluber as the 
name of a genus of snakes ; Cqwper has 
a poem Colubriad, the epic of a snake. 
A snake-like object, or a cunning person, 
is colubrine. The Fr. form of this word, 
couleuvrine, applied figuratively to a long 
cannon, gives us Eng. culverin; the under- 
ground channel, culvert, may be another 
figurative use. The Eng. culver, pigeon, is 
from AS. culfre, without any further 



known ancestry, even though snakes suck 
pigeons' eggs. 


This is the web (see ballot) of a 
cob, or ME. coppe, spider. Sometimes 
the web was called attercop, by trans- 
fer : this is really the full name of the 
insect : OE. attor, poison + cop, top, 
head (or cop, cup). This may have 
influenced the name of the snake, cop- 
perhead, which is derived from its 
color. As this snake, unlike the rattler, 
strikes without warning, it became the 
symbol of a surprise blow, and was 
used, during the War between the 
States, of a Northerner that favored 
the South, a Copperhead. Cp. copse. 

cock, cockade. 

See coquette. 


See crocodile. 


See vanilla. 


This term for the complacent city- 
dweller (Londoner) is traced in several 
directions. One derives it from Fr. 
acoquine, to make a coquin of (coquin 
is a villain). Others play upon the 
townsman's ignorance of the country : 
a city lad, hearing a horse, said "The 
horse is barking." He was told "a 
horse neighs." Soon after, he cried 
"Oh! the cock neighs!" Winning ad- 
mission to the NED is the suggestion 
that it comes from ME. coken-ey, 
cock's egg. This term was apparently 
applied to a dwarfed or malformed 
egg; then to a spoiled child; in the 
19th c, to the citizens of London. 


There are several stories behind this 
word. Weekley wonders whether it is 
not just a euphemism for God sure! 
There is an Irish coc, manifest, and 
indeed the Irish often are! The word 
cog is coc in Welsh; whence it is 
suggested that it means as sure as cogs 
fit into one another. But there is an 
older cog, or cock of a gun, from 
Fr. cache, still earlier meaning the 
notch of a bow for the arrow: only 
if the missile be set "cocksure" will it 
reach its target. One is reminded of 
the Devil's Dictionary definition of 


posijtive : mistaken at the top of one's 


Drinkers have it that this word is 
derived from its rousing effect, as of 
a horse ready for the race : it cocks 
up the tail. It is an American word, 
and perhaps from the racetrack. But 
back in the 18th c, Antoine Peuchaud 
of New Orleans concocted a drink he 
served in a wide bottomed cup, Fr. 
coquetier, whence Eng. cocktay. By 
transfer from the container to the 
thing contained, the cocktail is now 
transferred to the imbiber. Another 
story traces it to a Mexican girl, 
Xochitl, whose father sent her with the 
drink to the king; the king drank it, 
and married the girl, giving the drink 
her name. 

cocoa, cocoanut, coconut. 

See vanilla. 

coda, code, codex. 

See bible. 

coel — , coeli — , coelo — . 

These various suffixes, found in Engp. 
scientific words, are from two different 
sources. The more frequently used are 
from Kr. koilos, hollow ; from this, we 
have coeliac, coelenterata. But L. caelum, 
sky, was long written caelum; whence 
coelometer, coelonavigation (not In the 
heavens but by the stars). 


See drink. 

coffer, coffin. 

See suffer. 


See absquatulate. 


See exact. 

See exact. 

cognition, cognizance, cognoscenti. 

See (luaint ; science ; knick-knack ; 


See court. 


See coin. 




This word is borrowed from the 
French (Fr. coin, from L. cuneunt, 
wedge). Originally, in French, it meant 
a wedge ; in Eng. quoin means the 
wedge-shaped stone in an arch, and 
coign means a projecting comer: these 
are but different spellings of the word; 
But the word coin came to be used 
of the die for stamping money (from 
the shape of the die) ; in this sense it 
was taken into English. Then it was 
applied to the design stamped; finally, 
to the metal that was stamped, our 
coin. Cp. sterling. 


See dickey. 

cold, cold-blooded. 

See chill. 

See alcohol. 


See colossal. 


See remorse. 


L. collutn means neck; hence, collere, 
collat — , to neck, to embrare, whence 
OFr. collier, neckpiece, whence E \^,. 
collar. When a man was knighted, it 
was the custom to strike him gently 
on the neck ; hence L. accolare {ac, 
from ad, to), whence Eng. accolade. 
See cat-o' -nine-tails. N'ote that collate, 
to bring together, is conferre, collat — , 
from con, col, from com + ferre, lat — , 
to bring. The gathered Lives of the 
Fathers, read in the monastery, were 
the collation; the term was then applied 
also to the light meal that followed 
.this. Collateral is from L. com + latus, 
later — , side ; whence also lateral and 
(from the adjective latus, wide) lati- 

collate, collateral, collation. 
See collar. 


By way of AS. wis, whence Eng. wise, 
we get wisdom. (The abstract suffix 
— dom, as also in kingdom, halidom, is 
from f/o -f an earlier abstract suffix 
— moz, which in OE. became — m, as in 
stream.) For intelligence (from the pres- 
ent participle) and intellect (from the 
past), see legible. Though akin to this 
pair, a college cannot supply these quali- 
ties. L. intel, inter, among ; L. col, com, 
together -|- legere, to choose : L. collega 
(whence Eng. colleague) was a partner 
in office ; L. collegium, a partnership, an 
associated group. The word was first used 
for such associations, as the Apostolic 
college, the college of cardinals, the col- 
lege of heralds, the electoral college. 
Then it was applied, at a university, to 
a group, founded to advance mutual study 
in a particular field, or to provide bettter 
lodgings, or to help indigent students. 
Thus a university usually had several col- 
leges. From the fact that somt' universi- 
ties had but one college, however, perhaps 
from the lapse of the others, the two 
words became interchangeable. Current 
use tends to limit college to an institution 
conferring the "undergraduate", bachelor, 
degrees ; whereas a university will have 
more varied fields of instruction, pro- 
fessional schools; and will confer the 
"graduate", master and doctor, degrees. 
For degree and graduate, see issue. Our 
university is from L. unum, one + ver- 
tere, versus, turn; cp. conversion. L. uni- 
versum gives us universe, turning as one; 
L. universitat — , Fr. universite, whence 
Eng. university, was applied to the whole 
group associated in a task : universitas 
magistrorum et scholarium, the whole 
body of masters and students. From its 
early pronunciation (as the name Clark 
remains, and the word clerk; cp. shark) 
we have the resounding cheers for the 
varsity team. (Save through the antics of 
the cheer-leaders, there is no connection 
with arsey-varsey, for which see scurry.) 

collodion, colloid. 

See remorse. 


See alcohol. 

See college. 


See colonel. 

See legible. 

See Appendix II. 





The man in charge of a column of 
soldiers. (Fr. colonel, from It. colon- 
nello, from L. colonna, columna, Eng. 
column) . The Eng. pronunciation is from 
OE. coronet, from Sp. by dissimilation. 
Colony is not land taken by a colonel, 
but comes from L..colonus, a tiller, from 
colere, cultus, to till — from which we 
also derive cult, culture, cultivate. 

Yet a colonel may be a man of cul- 

The L. colonia, colony, gave its name 
to the German city of Cologne; whence, 
from its manufacture there, our cologne 
(first, eau de Cologne, water of Cologne. 
We still speak of toilet water.) 


See colonel. 


See Appendix II. 


L. color led to Fr. couleur, whence 
Eng. colour; the American color returns 
to the source. 

Originally, there was a relation between 
coloring something and attempting to get 
it out of sight : L. color is akin to L. 
eelare, to hide ; cp. cell. 

Color came into Eng. about the 14th 
c. ; the earlier Eng. word was AS. hiw, 
Eng. hue — which first meant form (Goth. 
hitvi, form), then appearance (Sansk. 
chhavi, skin, complexion), then color. 
Today we use hue of finer divisions of 
the primary- colors. 

To hew is common Teut., AS. heawan, 
cognate with L. curtus; cp. cutlet; hay; 
let the chips fall where they may ! (A 
chip is a little chop, both imitative words, 
referring at first to wood. Then the lamb 
chop. Chip was used to mean a chessman, 
about 1650; the round chips came two 
centuries later.) The hue and cry is 
echoic. See chap. 

See States. 

colossal, Colosseum, colossus. 

Herodotus spoke of the statues of 
Egypt as Gr. kollosos, gigantic figure; 
whence Eng. colossus and the adjective 
colossal. From its size, the amphitheatre 
of Vespasian at Rome was called the 
Colosseum; whence, any coliseum. 


This first meant a young ass (Sw. kult, 
strong boy) ; in the Bible, it is used of a 

young camel. The origin is unknown. 
For the colt revolver, see Appendix II. 


See cobra. 


See States. 


See liasturlium. 


See element. 


See colonel. 


See quaint. 


See debate. 

combustible, combustion. 

See urn. (L. com, together, the b being 
added for easier soimding). 

See welcome. 


See atone. 

comedy, comic. 

See encomium. 


A comely lass is good to look upon, 
but far from buxom, q.v. OHG. chumig 
meant weak, sickly ; G. kaum means with 
difficulty; in Eng. the word early devel- 
oped the sense of delicate ; hence, pleas- 

comfit, comfort. 

See confectionery. 


See paragraph. 


To put something into one's hand 
(literally, a written order; figuratively, 
as a charge) was in L. mandare, from 
manus, hand, -|- dare, to give; cp. date. 
Hence also Eng. mandate ; ihe mandated 
islands. With com, together, as an inten- 
sive {see commence) , this early became 
L. commendare, commendat — , whence 
Eng. commend, commendation; also re- 
commend. Commend first meant to give 
in trust, as a man commends his soul to 




God — hence, to offer as worthy of accep- 
tance, then, to praise. Demand (to take 
from the hand), rerfiand (L. re, back), 
command, are later formations. To repri- 
mand is influenced by these forms, Fr. 
repritnander, but from L. reprimere, re- 
press — , to press back ; whence also re- 
press. L. prcmere, press — is the source 
of press; express, cp. plot; and, via Fr. 
preindre, preinte and empreindre, Eng. 
print and imprint. Also a cold compress, 
compressed air, and the clothes press. 


When persons act together there is 
more power to them. Hence L. com, to- 
gether, is sometimes used as an intensive 
(cp. command). Thus commence (with 
an extra m for good measure) is via 
OFr. cumencer. It. cominciare, LL. form 
cominitiare, from L. initiare, initiat — , to 
begin. Hence also initiate; and from the 
adjective L. initialis, initial (first, hence 
esp. the first letter). Begin is common 
Teut., AS. beginnan; this suggests an 
earlier ginnan, which has not been found ; 
but later, begin sometimes lost its first 
syllable and was used (with or without 
an apostrophe) as gin and gan. To start 
was first to leap forward: AS. styrtan; 
its frequentative, AS. steartlian, gives us 
Eng. startle. The end of one's studies is 
the commencement of one's livelihood 


See command. 

commissary, commission, commit. 

See mess. Commission meant, in suc- 
cession : authority to act together for a 
prescribed purpose ; the group thus au- 
thorized ; the warrant for such an agent, 
as a commis.non in the army ; the mat- 
ter thus entrusted to an agent ; the pro 
rata sum allowed to such an agent. 
Commissary is from LL. commissarius, 
one entrusted, from L. commissus, sent 

commode, commodious, commodity. 

See accommodate. 


See immunity. 


See mute. 

community, commute. 
See immunity. 


See propaganda. 

companion, company. 

Sec calculate. 


Sec pelt. 

See irrelevant. 


See saxophone. 

complement, complete. 

See foil. 


See conii)lexion ; cp. plot. 


Tliib word has a complex history 
(L. com, Xogtiher -{- plectere, plexus, tu 
weave. Hence, a structure of fihri;^ 
closeiy interwoven, as the solar plexus 
Similarly L. plicare, plicat — , to fold, 
gives us complicate, implicate, and by 
way of OFr. emplier both imply and 
employ, to fold in, to involve. Simplicity 
is L. sine, without + plica, fold.). It 
was used of the weaving logetlicr of 
the characteristics of a person, in the 
personality. To the middle ages, these 
were ; 

(1) The four qualities: hot, cold, dry, 
ami moist. Tl.eir mixture (L. tcmpenirc, 
to mix, temper; cp. tattoo) gives us a 
man's temper, or temperninent. 
(Throui^h the tendency of a word 
meaning a scale to slide to one end 
of that scale, temper usually today 
means a bad temper.) Of things, this 
gives us their temperature. L. tein- 
perare is related to tempus, time, 
whence tempestas, season — then esp. the 
stormy season, whence Eng. tempest. 

(2) The four humors, humours (L. 
huinidus, moist, humid; humiditas, hu- 
midity), or bodily fluids: blood 

{sanguine, from L. sanguinis, bloody, 
ruddy), phlegm, choler (yellow bile), 
and melancholy (black bile). Thus 
one may. be of a sanguine disposition, 
or phlegmatic, or bilious, or choleric, 
or melancholy or melancholic even to 
melancholia. [And by the same scale- 
slide in the opposite direction, humjr 
now usually means good humor. Note 
that melancholy is from Gr. melon, 
black -|- chole, (whence choler, cholera), 
bile. Thus the name of the reformer 
Melanchthon is a translation into Gr. 



of his G. name, Schwartzerde, black 
earth. Thus Wolfgang Mozart changed 
his middle name from Gr. Theophilus to 
L. Amadeus, God-loving, G. Gottlieb.'] 
Since a man's nature is otten revealed 
by the color of his face, corf.plpxion, 
the individual weaving of tlicse assorted 
possibilities, came to its pre52nt inc-an- 
ing. Cp. element: bismuth. 

From L. plicare, plicat — , to fold, come 
a number of words, e.g., explicit, implicit, 
duplicity {see diploma) ; via Fr. plier 
come pliant and pliable. Replica is from 
L. and It. ; from the Fr. comes reply, a 
figurative use of Fr. replier, to fold back. 
Thus retort first meant to twist back ; 
cp. torch. (It is also suggested, how- 
ever, that simplicity comes from L. sim- 
ple.v from simplus, whence Eng. simple, 
akin to simul, like, and singuli, one. By 
a humorous noun ending, we have Eng. 

Sec complexion; cp. plot 

See application. 


See bull. 


See plot. 

compose, composition. 

See pose. 


See pose. A compound, an enclosure, 
is from Malay kampung, enclosure — 
possibly prepared for by Port, campo, 
field, campaign, countryside, etc., fio;n 
L. campus, field. Cp. camp. 

comprehend, comprehensive. 

See surrender. 


See command. 


When persons (groups, nations) can- 
not come to terms, they may send a few 
men forward together, to act in their be- 
half : (L. com, together; pro, forward, in 
behalf of — whence pro-ally, etc.; mittere, 
miss — , to send — whence missive, mission, 
missile : L. missilis, adapted to sending or 
throwing; L. mission — , the act of send- 


ing, then the ones sent, then their estab- 
lishment or their task ; missionary ; LL. 
missivum, something sent) compromise 
was, earlier, the promise together to abide 
by an agreement made by such arbitra- 
tion; then, the agreement itself. Since 
the final action is always less than either 
side desires, to compromise (oneseJf, then 
by extension, anyone) is to put oneself 
to the risk of being lessened ; hence, to 
put into a disadvantageous position. Your 
word sent forth (of a deed to follow) 
is your promise. 

The arbiter is the one that goes to 
see what he can do, from L. ad, to -f- 
bitere, betere, to go, to seek; whence the 
verb arbitrari, arbitrat — , and Eng. arbi- 

comptroller, compute, comrade. 

See calculate, curfew. 


See helmet. 


See ancestor. 

conceit, conceive, concept, conception. 

See recipe. 


The Gr. cogche, mussel, was hard to 
pronounce. It came into Eng, as cockle- 
shells all in a row. In L. it became 
concha; in Fr. this became conche and 
later conque; in Eng. by this path was 
an early conche, then conch — used esp. of 
the spiral shell of the larger molluscs, 
and also of this shell used as a horn 
(as when we hear Old Triton blow his 
wreathed horn). From the shape of the 
conch, it is used in slang {conk) to mean 
head (in England, nose), or a blow there- 
on; cp. vanilla. Triton, son of Poseidon, 
Gr. god of the sea, may get his name 
from the trident he always carries (Gr. 
tri — don; L. tri — dent — , three toothed; 
cp. east). Conch — is a frequent combin- 
ing form. For mussel, see muscle. The 
honk-honk of the automobile and the 
goose is echoic. 

See claustrophobia. 


See close. 


This word originally meant to digest 
(to cook together, from L. con, com, 
together, -f- coquere, coct — , to cook. 



Cook came into Eng. first as a noun, 
AS. coc, from L. coquus.) Concoction 
first meant digestion : in the medieval 
physiology this had three stages : the 
first concoction was the extraction of the 
fluids from the food ; the second, the 
turning of the chyme (q.v.) into blood; 
the third, secretion. 

With the lapsing of such ideas, the 
other sense of the word grew prominent : 
the preparation together of a number of 
ingredients, as for a stew, or a medicine; 
then, figuratively, of an elaborately but 
artificially worked out scheme or play, 
etc. : a concoction, something "cooked up". 


See prestige. 


The creatures all around come from L. 
creare, creat — , to create; cp. Creole. The 
inceptive of this is L. crescere, cret — , 
to grow; cp. excrement. Things that 
have grown together (L. con, com, to- 
gether) are Eng. concrete; this first meant 
connected in growth ; then continuous (its 
opposite being discrete: L. dis, apart). 
The mixture of pebbles, gravel, sand, etc. 
with lime or cement {see shed) is called 
concrete because it grows together into a 
single mass; cp. attract. Then the word 
was used in logic of qualities considered 
as growing together with their things : 
red head as opposed to redness ; redness, 
withdrawn from the concrete head, is 
abstract (for which, see attract). 


See discuss. 


See damage. 


See recondite. 

See verdict. 


See duke. 


See sterling. 

Coney Island. 

See canary. 

But that story may be folk-etymology, 
as some say it was earlier Conyn's 
Island, after a person. 



A confection is something specially pre- 
pared, from L. conficere, confect — , to 
prepare, from L. con, com, together, -|- 
facere, to make. The Fr. word was con- 
fire, confiss — , to preserve, to candy; 
whence a fancy confectionery proprietor 
may call himself a confiseur. By older 
English paths, OFr. confits changed to 
Eng. comfit, a sugar candy (usually with 
a nut enclosed). The word comfit is 
sometimes linked with comfort, which is 
from L. confortare, to strengthen, from 
com -\- fortis, strong. See defeat, 


See suffer. 


See finance. 


See infirmary. 


See flamingo. 

See affluent. 

See like. 

See dumb, futile. 


See effrontery. 

See dumb, futile. 

See dumb. 


See racy. 

See globe. 


See congress. 


Gradual (L. gradulis, from gradis, 
step; cp. centigrade, by 1(X) steps) prog- 
ress is the method of democracy, ef- 
fected by congress {gradior, I step, 
whence congredi, congressus, to step 
together). From the group (L. grex, 
gregis, herd) that goes together came 
the noun (L. congregation — ) congregct- 



tion, retained in £ng. as a religious 
flock. Similarly L. pascere, past — , to 
feed, gives us pastoral in rural applica- 
tion, but pastor in the religious. Mil- 
ton's pastoral poem "Lycidas" comMncs 
the two senses. 

The pastor is related to Pan, god the 
feeder, god of the flocks and fields, hence 
nature everywhere. Cp. diapason; pan. 

Our flock has a double origin. As 
a tuft of wool (ON. floke, 01 IG. 
flohho, Ft. floe, from L. floccus) it 
is related to flake (as in snow f lake : 
other senses of flake relate it to flay 
and Du. vlak, flat, which, as a level 
place, came to mean floor, dwcllin;^'). 
As a flock of sheep, tended by the 
pastor, it is found only in the Scand. 
languages (ON. flokkr, Sw. flock, Dan. 
flok) and is a variation, by metathesis, 
of folk. A good place to observe the 
folk-ways is ill the Congres.nonal Rec- 
ord ! .See issue. 

conject, conjecture. 

See subject. 

conjugal, conjunction, conjunctivitis. 

.Tf^ subjugate; cp. yokel. 


This was originally to swear together, 
from L. con, com, together, + jurare, to 
swear ; cp. jury. A conjuration was thus 
a solemnly binding oath among several 
persons ; hence, a conspiracy. But it was 
also used of a solemn call upon some- 
thing sacred ; hence of the summoning of 
spirits or other supernatural powers to do 
one's bidding ; with the lapse of belief in 
this form of spiritualism, the word was 
applied to the performance of the con- 
jurer. In early times, the pronounciation 
cun'jer was favored for every sense; 
when the sense of performing "magic" 
tricks became dominant, the sound con 
joor developed for the sense of binding 
by oath, or appealing strongly, to adjure. 
(Against appeals to the powers of dark- 
ness, pious Christians would keep their 
fingers crossed — the sign of the cross to 
ward off evil ; or to imply that they 
don't mean it, the Lord should keep off 
the devil, as when telling a lie.) 


.See vanilla. 

connect, connection, connexion. 

See nexus. 


See States. 


See remorse. 


See shrine. 


Sec anathema. 


See pursue ; cp. set. 

consensus, consent. 
See ascend. 

consequence, consequential. 

See pursue ; cp. set. 


Astrologers used to examine the stars, 
to see how their coming together (at a 
person's birth) indicated the future. 
Hence L. considerare, considcrnt — , to 
observe carefully, from con, from com, 
together -f- sidus, sider — , star. And one 
that has pondered well is likely to be 
considerate (which first meant giving 
thought, then more esp. giving thought 
for others). There is also the scientific 
term sidereal. Cp. disaster. 


See tank. 

consolation, console. 

See insolent. 

See prompt. 


See absurd. 


See inspiration. 


See marshal. 


See tank. 

constellation, consternation. 

See disaster. 

constituent, constitute. 

See season. 

constrain, constrict. 

See prestige. 




construct, construe. 
See destroy. 

consul, consult. 
See council. 

consume, consummate, consummation, 
See prompt. 

contact, contagion. 
See attain ; deck. 


See tennis. 

See attain; deck. 


Sec I em pie. 


(L. con, com, together). See pylorus. 


See temple, tennis. 

content, contention, contentious, 
See tennis. 


.S"^^ cantankerous. 


Sec text. 


See deck. 


Sec tennis. 

contingency, contingent. 

See deck. Contingent first meant com- 
ing together, thus happening (by chance) ; 
then, as a noun, one's lot, what comes to 
one when spoils etc. are divided; then, 
the due proportion of something, esp. of 
troops to be sent. 


See torch. 


See ban. 


Sec distraction. 

See verdict. 


Sea tank. (LL. contraslare, to stand 


See tribulation. 

See terse. 

See calculate. 


The L. con, com, together, is an inten- 
sive here. The inceptive ending, L. 
— escere, to grow, makes this mean to 
grow valid again; see infirmary; cp. ver- 

convene, convenient, convent, conven- 

See council ; . prevent. 

converge, conversant, conversation. 

See conversion. 


See advertise; conversion. Converse 
the verb (whence conversation) is from 
L. conversari, to turn about with, hence 
to talk with; converse the adj. is di- 
rectly from converter e, conversus. 


From L. vertere, versi — , turn, and 
its derivatives come a great number of 
Eng. words, of which conversion (L. 
con, together, among) has both a re- 
ligious and a chemical application, A 
convert and a pervert (L. f>er, throuRh, 
whence through and through, thoroughly, 
whence away entirely, to no good end : 
/>erdition, perish) indicate further forms. 
Cntiversation, originally the act of liv- 
ing or being (turning about) among 
others, came to mean physical intimacy: 
the law still speaks of "criminal con- 
versation"; only in the 17th c. *did con- 
7'erse come to mean to talk togetlier. 
Verse (influenced by AS. fers and Fr. 
vers) indicates the turning at the end 
of a line (in early writing, prose was 
written on and on without space be- 
tween words until the width was filled ; 
poetry — hence verse, turned — moved for 
its specified feet, then began a nrw 
line.) Conversible and nmvcrtihle both 
were used imtil the 19th c. ; today, we 
speak of a convertible sedan {q.v.). The 



right hand side of a book is the recto 
(L. right) ; turn the page .and you have 
the verso^ From tlieir position as axis 
of the body, we name the vertebra. The 
axis of tlie sky, then the tip of the pole 
(zenitli) is the vertex (L. vertex, ver- 
tici — ) ; hence a Hne drawn up to it is 
vertical. As it is on such a line that 
the earth, tha( all cosmic matter, spins 
(according to Descartes) a vertex or 
vortex came to mean a rapidly spinning 
body — whence the vorticists of modem 
art. The effect of such spinning is 
verticjo, which may also be felt on look- 
ing from a vertiginous height. A vari- 
ation of vertcre, to turn, is LL. vergere, 
to bend, from which we have diverge, 
diversion; converge. Verge, from this 
source, has blended in its history with 
verge (L. virga, rod; related ? to L. 
virgo, maiden), still used for the male 
organ of an invertebrate. This rod, per- 
haps originally a phallic symbol, was 
carried in procession as badge of author- 
ity, a mace ; then "within the verge" 
was used as meaning within the (turn- 
ing) boundary of the power of the 
Lord High Steward (12 miles around 
the King's court). It was gradually 
used of the limits or edges of that 
territory ; then "on the verge" came to 
mean on the brink of a place or of an 

The frequentative of vertere was ver- 
sare, with adj. versatilis; from these 
forms we have versatile, rapidly chang- 
ing, then adapting oneself to changing 
circumstances ; also versed; conversant. 
There are many more, but to continue 
would divert (L. di, from dis, two 
ways, apart, away) us too long [di- 
vers, diverse, diversion and divertisse- 
ment — that which turns us away — diver- 
sified; advert (cp. advertise) ; animad- 
version — L. anima, mind — etc.] from the 
main flow of this book. 

See conversion. 

See vehicle. 

convict, convince. 

See victoria. 


See volume. 


See concoct. 



See chill. 

cop, copper. 
See copse, element. 


See cobweb. 


This word is made familiar in the 
semi-classical remark of Macbeth's sen- 
try, on beholding Birnam Wood march 
toward Dunsinane : "Cheese it, the 
copse!" (Incidentally, the play marks an 
early use of camouflage.) The word is 
short for earlier copys, which is a vari- 
ant of the still used coppice. Both 
copse and coppice first meant a grove 
of small trees grown esp. for cutting, 
from OFr. copeiz, coupiez, LL. type 
colpaticiuin, something cuttable, from 
LL. colpare] colpat — , to cut with a 
blow, from LL. colpus, earlier colapus, 
colaphus, from Gr. colaphos, blow, cuff. 

There was also an early Eng cops, 
copse, meaning fetters or hasps, whence 
(by Grimm's Law and popular etymol- 
ogy) probably handcuffs. Indeed, cuff 
on the sleeve may be from this source, 
or from LL. cuphia, a variant of cappa, 
a cap, cape, hood with cloak. 

There is a cop, an early form of cup, 
earlier both copp and cuppe; from its 
shape this came to mean a top or sum- 
mit. The cop on the street corner may 
be derived from copper, as in 
Brass button, blue coat, 
Couldn't catch a narmy-goat I 
but copper in that sense seems to have 
come from cop. Its source is probably 
the verb cop, to catch, from an obso- 
lete cap, from OFr. cape (The legal L. 
for a writ was capias: you may seize) 
from L. capere, capt — , to take captive, 
to seize ; cp. achieve, manceuvre. The 
metal copper is from L. cuprum (which 
first occurs in 301 A.D.) from Cyprium 
aes, the Cyprian metal. See cobweb. 

copulate, copulative. 

L. copula is a bond, from co — , to- 
gether -|- apere, apt — , to fit, whence 
Eng. apt; cp. Icuso. Hence via L. cop- 
ulare, copulat — , to join, come Eng. cop- 
ulate and the copulative verb. Via Fr. 
couple this gives us our Eng. couple and 
the coupling devices on a train. 


The rooster (so called because he 
roosts, from AS. hrost; common Teut.) 




is, by imitation of his favorite call, also 
named cock, as in L. coccus. From the 
siiape of the cock's head (with the 
comb) come several words : the cock of 
a gun, a tap; the cockade; the cox- 
comb, fool — who was adorned with a 
cock's comb. The cocker-spaniel was 
trained to chase the wild variety, or 
zvood-cock (note that tliis is a bird; 
not the woodchuck, from Am. Indian 
we jack, corrupted). A Fr. diminutive 
of coq, cock, is coquet; the feminine is 
coquette, a woman that displays herself 
like a strutting cock. (Among all ani- 
mals save man, it is the male that 
preens and flirts.) 

flirt, used in the 16th and 17th c. of 
a sliglit jerk (to flirt a fan) has been 
traced to AS. flcardian, to trifle, whence 
AS. fleard, a bit of folly, whence 
? fleer. It was often spelled fluri; and 
has been associated with Fr. flcureter, 
from flcur, flower, to flit from flower 
to flower, as does the bee. Certainly 
the comparison is often made by the 
poets, e.g. Ben Jonson : 

I'll taste as lightly as the Bee 
That doth but touch his flower, 
and flies away. 


See prestige. 


See prestige ; drink. 

Cordovan, corduroy. 

See cloth. 


See scourge. 


See barley. 

A small corn (AS. cyrnel) is a kernel. 


See carnelian. 

corporal, corporeal, corps, corpse, 
corpulent, corpuscle. 
See leprechaun. 


See royal. 


See spouse. 

corrode, corrosion. 

See rodent. 


See rote. 

.S>^ hussar. 

corset, corslet. 

See leprechaun. Note that body was 
used in the 17th c. for the tight part 
of a dress ; cp. bodkin. 


See curb. 

corybantes, corymb, coryphee. 

See exquisite. 

cosmetics, cosmic, cosmopolitan. 

See police. 


See customer. 


See deck. 


Sec cloth. 


This was first a transitive verb, mean- 
ing to put in a place, to lay down, as to 
couch a lance ; but by the 14th century 
it had acquired the intransitive sense, to 
lie in a place. It is via OFr. coucher, 
earlier colchier, from L. collocare from 
col, com, together (used intensively; cp. 
commence) + locare, local — , to place; 
whence location; cp. lieutenant; allocatt 
(L. al, ad, to) ; dislocate, to put out of 
place, etc. The literal sense can be seen 
behind such figurative phrases as couch- 
ing his remarks in no uncertain language. 


This word, from an AS. form cohhian, 
like laugh (q.v.), is of echoic origin. So 
is hoot; also hoop (Fr. houper), as a 
call to dogs and horses. This was later 
rendered as whoop ; whence first hooping- 
cough and the now prevalent whooping- 

The hoopoe is named from its cry, 
more closely apprc-ximat- »^ in the L. name 
for the bird, L. upupa. Tnf Hoop th ' 
girls roll and their eider si.-ters wear In 
hoopskirts was common Teut. OE. hop. 
For the type of hoop used in the dress, 
see furbelow. 


This word was for a long time inter- 
changeable with counsel; the differences 




today are mainly from deliberate distinc- 
tions drawn in the legal field. Council is 
from L. concilium, an assembly, from con, 
com, together, -|- calare, to call. {Call is 
common Teut., ME. kallen, to cry loudly, 
to chatter; cognate with the Aryan root 
gar — , to chatter.) Counsel is from L. 
consular e, consult — , to deliberate; whence 
also consul and consult. There is also a 
L. consilium from this verb ; which, how- 
ever, is from L. com, together, + salire, 
to leap; hence, to get into a huddle; cp. 
somersault. This may be traced to a 
Sansk. root gar—, to go. Thus a gad- 
about is likely to be a chatterbox; and 
we can see why counsel and councils are 
often confused and confusing. 

If those that have leapt together finally 
come together (L. convenire, convent — , 
from venire, to come) in a suitable fash- 
ion—from the present participle conven- 
iens, convenient — , comes Eng. conven- 
ient, when the desire and the means come 
together— after they thus convene, they 
may come forth with a covenant [con- 
venant, the earlier form, was lost, then 
revived: Emerson in his poem The Visit, 
ca. 1840, uses convenance ; then lost 
again. A convent, first a (church) as- 
sembly, similarly lost the n— as still in 
place names like Covent Garden, the fam- 
ous London playhouse; the restored form 
convent was for serious purposes retain- 
ed], such as the two covenants the Jew- 
ish and Christian Lord God made with 

See council. 

count, counter. 

Sec calculate. 


See defeat. 

countess, country, county. 

See calculate. 


Sec svipercilious. 


See cutlet. 

court, courtesan, courtesy. 

Tlie vcninp; ladies of a court may not 
be chickens, but the court was once a 
poultry-yard. The word is from OFr. 
court, from L. cars, from cohors, co- 
hort — , an enclosed space, from co, to- 
gether -\- hois, hort — , garden, whence 
horticulture. Hence the body of men 

trained in one field, a cohort. Enclosed 
fields belonged to rulers; so that the 
word gradually came to refer to the 
scat of a king, or the place whence he 
dispensed (or dispensed with) justice. 
The woman of the court was a courte- 
san; her frequent behavior changed the 
meaning of this word. Court plaster 
(from LL. plastrum, from Gr. emplas- 
troH, from emplassein, to daub over, 
from plassein, to mold; cp. plant) was 
that from which the court ladies cut the 
little i>atches with which they adorned 
their faces and shoulders; sometimes 
these were decorative designs, sometimes 
they showed the family or political 
party. Courtesy is, of course, behavior 
such as should grace a court. 


See overture. 

covenant, Covent Garden. 
See council. 

Coventry (to send to). 

Sre boycott. 

The word Coventrised is being used to 
mean almost wiped out, as Coventry by 
German bombs, November IS, 1940. 


See curfew; overture. 


See overture. 


This word was very common Teut, 
OE. cu. The plural ME. kun. kyn, gives 
us kine, which is the general word for 
cattle of either sex; but outside the 
Teutonic forms the word was used for 
both cow and bull: Sansk. gov — ; Gr. 
bous; L. bos, bov—; cp. Bosphorus. 
There is no etymological relation between 
the cow (cu) and its cud, which is from 
AS. cxvudu, related to a Teut. root kit—, 
to stick; Gr. glia. sticky; cp. clam. And 
see mutton. 


A turn-tail. The suffix —ard (OFr. 
—(in/, —art: G. hart, bold) originally 
implying recklessness, came to indicate 
excess, or disrepute: drunkard, laggard, 
bastard. [OFr. bast is from LL. bas- 
tuiii, i)acksaddle, sometimes used as a 
bed. Thus the word is short for "son 
of a packsaddle". as one might say "so:i 
of a pun" — and should be a warning 
for hitch-hiking girls. /yt<c/», earlier also 



hatch and hatch, first meant to jerk, as 
in Fr. hocher la tete. From moving 
jerkily {"Hxtch your chair over a lit- 
tle") it came to mean to hobble; then, 
to fasten (a horse) with a hobble ; then, 
to fasten; finally, to catch on something 
(as Miss Mitford says, in Our Village, 
"hitching our shawls in a bramble"), 
lo ask for a hitch combines the newest 
and the oldest senses. By hitching hi? 
waggon to a star, Emerson meant that 
the farmer allied himself with the uni- 
versal forces (i.e., gravitation, when 
going downhill). Hike meant first to 
tramp; then, as any hiker will testify, 
to drag along. The word hike is cog- 
nate with\ hitch, so that to hitch-hike is 
in a sense reduplicated, q.v.'\ 

The stem cow — in coward is not re- 
lated to the animal, but from OFr. 
coe — , from L. cauda, tail ; related thus 
to caudex whence codex; sec bible. A 
coward is thus also one that does not 
keep the code. Note that the timid ha/c 
in the medieval beast tales (cp. monkey) 
was named Coart. 


See coquette. 


See decoy. Fr. coite, earlier quetus, 
from L. quietus, quiet. This is the past 
participle of quiescere, quiet — , to grow 
still; whence also Eng. quiescent. 

See barnard. 

crab, crabbed. 

See cancel ; penthouse. 

See chink, crunch, swivel. 


See swivel. 


This was a common Teut. word for 
strength, AS. craejt, G. Kraft. In 
English only it came to mean skill, then 
occupation (at which one was skilled), as 
in craftsman, woodcraft. From clever, 
crafty came to mean cunning. Boats of 
small craft (power) were called small 
craft, then just craft. 


The word crumb was spelled crum 
until into the 19th c. ; it seems to spring 
from a verb meaning to rub; thus a 


crumb is a tiny bit rubbed off. There is 
an OE. crimman, cram, crummen, to put 
in — which gives us Eng. cram, as \yhen 
a hungry man crams his gvillet; this is 
related to OHG. krimman. to press, to 
scratch ; ON. kremja, to squeeze — hence 
to Eng. cramp, as in cramped quarters 
or in your stomach; cp. luncheon. There 
seems to have been the basic sense of to 
claw, also to squeeze, to strain; hence 
cramp also means a grappling-iron and 
other such instruments, and is linked 
with clamp, akin to clench, q.v. Other 
words in this group are crimp, (to put a 
crimp into something), crump, and its 
causal crumple (like tramp, also echoic, 
and trample). Crump meant first the sound 
of a blow; then the blow itself, then the 
doubling up or bending in as from a blow ; 
hence, the cow with the crumpled horn. 
There is also a crump that is purely 
echoic, from the sound of pigs or horses 
munching — munch and crunch are simi- 
larly echoic words. 

See cram, luncheon. 


See buck. 


When you crank a car, you use a 
bent bar ; there is something bent be- 
hind every use of the word. There was 
an old verb, crankle, to zig-zag ; it sur- 
vives in the variant form crinkle. About 
1600 the word crank was usvd lor a 
twist of speech, as in Milton's "Quips, 
and cranks, and wanton wiles" (^L'Al- 
legro) ; about 1850 it was used for an 
eccentric idea or aci ; about 1880, for 
a person with a mental twist. This 
use survives. Some of the meanings 
of the word have been influenced by 
G. krank, ill — whicli is probably of the 
same origin ; one sign of illnes''- is tlie 
body bent in pain. 


See crunch. 

See hard. 


One conception of the volcano (q.v.) 
makes it the forge of the gods; the 
Roman blacksmith god Vulcan works at 
his fires there. Another picture presents 
it as cooking the devil's broth; this 
thought is preserved in the crater, from 
Gr. krater, bowl, mixing vessel, from Gr. 




kera — , kra — , to mix. Closely allied is 
Gr. keramos, clay for the potter, whence 
our ceramic ware. L. cera, Gr. keros, is 
wax ; whence Eng. cerement and cere- 
cloth- (waxed cloth for \yrapping the 
dead). This has no connection, however, 
with ceremony, q.v., nor with cerebrum, 
(related rather to Gr. kara, head) and its 
diminutive cerebellum — which have been 
called our inner tweedledum and tweedle- 

{Tweedledum and tweedledee, whom 
Lewis Carroll has made familiar — Alice 
In Wonderland, 1865 ; Through the Look- 
ing-Glass, 1871 — were first derisive imi- 
tations of the sound of the flute, used in 
the rivalry between the musicians Bonon- 
cini and Handel, 1725.) 

See hard. 


See Appendix II. 


Here again, two explanations. The 
original word was creaunt or cravant. 
It is therefore not one that craved 
(AS. crafian) his life from the op- 
posing soldier; but, from OFr. cravante, 
from L. crepare, present participle 
crepans, to break : one that was over- 
come and broken. In The Ancren 
Riwle (Rules for Anchoresses, ca. 
1225) a person overcome is pictured 
as crying "craven, craven" in submis- 

See penthouse. 


This word had originally no connec- 
tion with cows or milk. It is first, 
from AS. crisma, from OFr. cresme, 
from L. chrisma, consecrated oil, used 
in anointing, from Gr. chrisma, anoint- 
ing, from chriein, to anoint. The 
Christ is the anointed one, Gr. Christos 
— whence christen. Christian, Christmas 
(mass is from L. Ite, missa est, Go, 
it is sent away: dismissed: the final 
words of the service). But L. crcvtor 
meant the juicy ooze of boiled com 
(from L. cremare, cremat — , to burn, 
whence Eng. cremation) ; this became 
LL. crema, and was used in the term 
cremor lactis, cream of milk, then 
shortened to cream. The two develop- 
ments merged in the modern word. 

The common Teut. word for cream 

(surviving in G. dialect, Kern) changed, 
through AS. cyrin, into the Eng. churn, 
wherein cream is made butter. 

There is also a Gr. krema, to hang, 
which through the Fr. may have given 
us the military term cremailliere , and 
directly gives us Eng. cremasters, the 
technical term for suspenders. 


This word is a doublet of crest, 
from ME. creaste, from OFr. creste, 
from L. crista, ridge. And a crease 
or fold was originally spoken of in 
terms of its projection, like a ridge on 
a roof or a forehead, or the crest of 
a wave. 

create, creature. 

See Creole. 


See miscreant. 


See cream. 


This term was at first applied to all 
West Indians whose fathers were white. 
They were usually raised for service 
in the household, and treated with more 
favor than the full-blooded natives. The 
word Creole is Sp. criollo, diminutive 
of Sp. criado, foster-child, from L. 
creare, creat — , to create, created. Eng. 
create and creature (thing created) are 
thus of the same root ; and the word 
in a way is the father's admission ol 
his paternity. 


This liquid, when first discovered (by 
Reichenbach, 1832) was found to have 
strong antiseptic powers. It is named 
from this fact, by (an ungrammatical) 
coinage from the Gr. kreo — , from kreas, 
flesh, -f- soter, saviour. The doctrine of 
salvation is sometimes (not very often!) 
referred to as soteriology. 

A septic tank is where things putrefy, 
from Gr. septikos, from sepein, to spoil ; 
hence antiseptics. There is no relation to 
September (L. sept em, seven) ; cp. 
month; nor to the division of an Irish 
clan, the sept — which is a fancy spelling 
of sect; cp. set. 


.Sec excrement. 


See crease. 





See nincompoop. 


Sec cloth. 

crib, cribbage, crime. 

See garble. 


The insect, with the diminutive ending 
— et, draws its name from the sound, krik. 
The game draws its name from the bat 
that was used (originally curved like a 
hockey stick, with the ball bowled along 
the ground). Its origin is uncertain: not 
that of crutch; cp. criss-cross; perhaps 
via Du. krick from Fr. criqttet, also 
croquet (our game), diminutive of Fr. 
croc, shepherd's staff, our crook. The 
whole is from a Teutonic stem meaning 
bent, or pronged — whence also crooked, 
and the man that does not go straight, 
the crook. Its first course may be echoic 
of the sound of prongs striking stone; 
there is thus Fr. croquer, to dick the 
teeth, to chew ; whence the croquettes 
(again the diminutive ending) that we 

Contrarywise, as the crook would feel, 
from the sportsmanship associated with 
the English game comes the reproving 
remark "That's not cricket!" 

See circus. 

See cram, luncheon. 

See crank. 

See cloth. 

See garble. 

See cloth : crepe. 


The alphabet, in the medieval horn- 
book, was preceded by a cross; thus 
it made the Christ-cross row. The re- 
duplicative tendency of tongues changed 
this to criss-cross, which no longer 
need be the religious cross. Christ is 
L. from Gr. Christos; cp. cream. Sim- 
ilarly Messiah is from Aram. tnshihS, 

from Heb. mdshiah, from mas hah, to 
anoint. Cp. conjure. 

Cross is from AS. cros, from L. 
crux, cruci, whence Eng. crucify, to 
make into a cross. The meaning of the 
adjective is from the opposite directions 
of tlie two sticks ; hence, also, across, 
from AS. a, on -|- cross. Hence, to be 
at cross-purpose; and cross, angry. L. 
cruci — also, gives us crutch, AS. cryce, 
from the shape of the top ; the Crntched 
Friars wore a cross, as did the Cru- 
saders: Prov. crozada, crossed, whence 
Fr. croisade, whence Eng. crusade. 

critical, criticism. 

See garble. 


This word is directly from Gr. croco- 
deilos, gravel-worm, applied since Herod- 
otus (5th c. B.C.) to the giant reptiles 
of the Nile. The word took many forms, 
among them cockadrill — which led to its 
being confused with its mortal enemy, 
the cockatrice. 

While the crocodile still exists, the 
cockatrice died with medieval natural 
history. It is a translation of Gr. ichneu- 
mon (also used in Eng.) from ichneuein, 
to track, from ichnos, footstep : the animal 
seeks out and devours the eggs of the 
crocodile. And cockatrice is from L. cal- 
catrix, similarly from L. calcare, to track, 
from calx, calc — , heel ; cp. recalcitrant. 
Confused also with the trochilus (bird 
that picks the crocodile's teeth ; cp. 
troche), this creature was in imagination 
bird, beast, then reptile ; pictured as a 
water-snake, it came to be identified 
(from the first syllable- of its Eng. 
name) with the basilisk; cp. bazooka: a 
monster born of a cock's egg, and which 
kills by its mere glance. By a figure of 
speech easily accepted, the basilisk, killing 
with a glance, was used of a woman, esp. 
a wanton woman; hence also the cockc^- 
trice (as in Dekker's The Guls Home- 
booke, 1609, where, in the chapter "How 
a Gallant Should Behave Himself in a 
Play-house", a house by the waterside is 
recommended, the better "to shun shoul- 
der-clapping and to ship away your cock- 
atrice betimes in the morning". Thus 
the creature has come back to the water ; 
and she probably sheds crocodile tears.) 
The term crocodile tears, for false sem- 
blance of sorrow, rises from the notion 
that the crocodile moaned to attract its 
victims, and shed tears while devouring 





See carrion. The word is not related 
to crony, q.v. 


This is 17tli c. university slang. 
Samuel Pepys speaks of a chrony of 
his; tiic word is from Gr. chronios, 
contemporary, from chronos, time, 
whejice chronoineter, time-measurer: the 
fancy word for a watch, or the word 
lor a fancy watch. 

crook, crooked. 

See cricket. 


This is a common Teut. form, with 
the basic meaning of swelling, or lump, 
or bunch. In OE. cropp there were two 
meanings, the crop (lump in the throat) 
of a bird, and the top or head of a plant. 
The second of these has developed into 
the crops that are gathered at harvest. 
The crop of a whip is the thick handle. 
As a noun, there is also the echoic sense, 
of the sound crop crop of an animal crop- 
ping grass. The sense of cropping comes 
from the noun : to cut off the crops is 
to crop. This also has been extended in 
use. as to crop one's hair, cut it short on 
the head. Whence also — as may you not 1 — 
to come a cropper. 

Harvest is AS. haerfest, autumn, pick- 
ing time ; cognate with L. carpere, to pick ; 
Gr. karpos, fruit. To carp is thus to pick 
on someone, though this association may 
have altered an OE. word akin to ON. 
karpa, to talk loud, to boast. The boaster 
often comes a cropper. 

croquet, croquette. 

See cricket. 


See criss-cross. 

See crust. 


This word, OE. crudan, not found early 
in the other Teut. tongues, was first a 
verb, meaning to press : Don't crowd me ! 
From the idea of pressing or squeezing 
through came the present application to a 
crowd, as at any parade. 

There is a medieval fiddle called a 
rote or a crowd; OFr. rote, from the 
Celtic : Ir. cruit; Welsh crwth. Some- 
times this is referred to, in English also, 
as a crwd — a rare instance of w as a 
word's only vowel. 


Sec lacrosse. 


See fix. 


See criss-cross. 


The Dutch (q.v.) \yere great mariners, 
rivals of the English upon the seas, 
which they frequently crossed. And the 
Du. for cross (see criss-cross) was kruis, 
which gives us Eng. cruise. 

crumb, crxunp. 
See cram. 

crumpet, crumple. 
See luncheon. 


This word, earlier craunch, is a nasal 
variation of crash, an echoic word, 
softer than the sharp split of crack. 
See cram, knick-knack. 


See criss-cross. 


The hard outer part of the bread (as 
opposed to the crumb, which breaks off; 
cp. cram) was named crust from OFr. 
croute, crouste (the diminutive gives us 
the crouton we put in soup), from L. 
crusta, hard shell, whence the family of 
the crustaceans. 

See crust 


5"^^ criss-cross. 

See crowd. 

crypt, cryptography. 
See element: krypton; grotesque. 


See flower. 


The ancients knew little of the struc- 
ture of crystals (cp. clinic) ; they were 
impressed with their clarity. The word 
(gradually applied to other forms, as the 
structural similarity was recognized) was 
first applied to snow and frost: Gr. kryos, 
frost (whence the combining form Eng. 
cryo — , as in cryolite) ; Gr. krystallos. 



clear ice, whence Eng. crystal. Contrasted 
to Gr. krystallos is Gr. kryptos, hidden, 
from kryptein, to hide; whence Eng. 
cryptic, crypto — ; cp. grotesque. 
The opposite of crystalloid is colloid, 

from Gr. kolla, glue, H eides, —form ; 

cp. remorse. Collogue, however, seems 
a corruption of Kr. colloque, from L. 
col, com, together, + loqui, to speak, 
whence also colloquy; cp. agnostic. 

See ducking-stool. 

See cow. 


The L. coda {cp. bible)\ia. OFr. coe, 
keue, cue, became Fr. queue, which in 
the sense of tail (pigtail, long braid of 
hair) is spelled queue also in English — 
but also cue. One suggestion as to the 
origin of cue, a hint, is that it is a word 
at the "tail" of one speech, suggestion to 
the next actor that it is his turn to 
begin. The word, however, is not thus 
used in French. Early Eng. prompt-books 
used Q, which has been explained as the 
abbreviation of L. quando, when (as we 
wait for the drinker to "say when"). In 
the game of billiards, q.v., the stick was 
first called the billard, the tapering end 
or tail of it was the cue. We now apply 
the word to the whole stick. 

Also see barbecue. 


See culprit. 


This word passed through the 'mouths 
of the law clerks, hence was strangely 
altered. In the medieval English 
court, if a prisoner pleaded "Not 
Guilty," the prosecutor would answer ; 
"Culpable : prcst," meaning : "He is 
guilty ; I am ready to prove it." {Culp- 
able is from L. culpa, fault. Prest, 
pret, is from LL. praestus, ready, from 
prac, hei ore -\- esse, to be.) In court 
records this was abbreviated cul. pret. — 
whence, cuipril, the man to be tried. 

cult, cultivate, culture. 
See acorn ; colonel ; cutlet. 

culverin, culvert. 
See cobra. 

See accumulate; cloud. 



Sec king. 


See scourge. 


Sec psychoanalysis. 

curate, curative, curator. 
See accurate. 


The curbstone is not primarily to curb 
a horse ; yet each is by roundabout from 
the same source : via. Fr. courbe from L. 
curvus, bent; L. curvare, curvat-, to 
bend; whence also Eng. curve; the dimin- 
utive curvet; and, via It., corvetto. The 
ship, corvette, however, is named because 
of its shape, from L. corbis, basket. The 
way to curb a horse was to curb (bend) 
his neck by means of a bit and bridle ; 
hence the general use in the sense of 
checking. The curbstone (in England 
usually kerb, kerbstone) is both curved 
at the top and serving to check flow of 
water, etc., from roadway to sidewalk 
(the ancient Roman roads were raised in 
the center-path). The other senses of 
the word follow from these, as when you 
curb your impatience. 


See quarry ; cp accurate. 


The line "Curfew shall not ring to- 
night" reminds us of a custom renewed 
ill the World War II nightly dimont. 
Medieval lights had to be jnit out at 
the ringing of an evening signal bell, 
the order Cover fire! (Fr. couvrc-fcu, 
whence Eng. curfew) being brought to 
England by the Norman coiuun'iovi. 
(Fr. convrir, from L. cooperire, Irom 
co{7)i), mlens'we -\- operirc, to cover; 
fire (AS. fyr, G. feuer, Fr. fen; coir- 
nate with Gr. pyr, whence Eng. Pyro- 
)!iaiii(ic; L. purus, cleansed as by fire, 

But purity is a complex matter, and 
may lead on strange paths. Thus L. purus 
came to mean clean, by whatever process. 
Trees and vines are cleaned by lopping 
off excess, by pruning (cp. propaganda) -, 
hence piitare, putat — , to prune. But if 
you prune away excess you also arrange 
what's left; and you must plan the prun- 
ing. Thus putare, putat — came to mean 
to reckon, then to estimate (whence Eng. 
compute, to reckon together; putative; 




imputation ; reputation) to consider. The 
original meaning was not lost, however; 
combined with L. am, from ambo, both, 
around, it gives us Eng. amputation, a 
lopping off, often necessary to keep the 
body clean (as when gangrene sets in). 
Thus cleanliness, though next to god- 
liness, is often next to filth. 

Another common way of cleansing is 
by washing ; whence L. purgcre, Eng. 
purge; and L. putcics is a well. But let 
the water stand, or let something stay too 
long soaked in water, and it becomes L. 
putidus, stinking, or L. putcr, putrid — , 
rotten, whence Eng. putrid; cp. polecat. 
To make or grow rotten is Eng. putrefy 
(L. ficere in compounds, from jacere, to 
do, to make). The L. putrere, putrid — , 
to rot, has the inceptive form putrcscere, 
putui; whence Eng. putrescent, which it 
would take fire and water to make pure. 

curio, curiosity, curious. 

See accurate. 


Listed today as of origin unknown, 
this may have coriie from Fr. coeur, 
heart + me chant, wicked. At least, so 
Samuel Johnson was told ; in his dic- 
tionary he listed it as from "coeur 
mediant, Fr. an unknown correspon- 
dent." A dictionary of 1775 recorded 
it as from Fr. coeur, unknown -\- 
mechant, correspondent. It is idle to 
speculate how many similar errors, less 
easy to detect, remain perpetuated. 


See Appendix II ; see current. 


Through OFr. curant, courant, this is 
from L. currere, curs — , to run ; whence 
also cursive, discourse; cp. hussar, cutlet. 
The present participle, currens, current — , 
gives us tlie current of a stream, as well 
as the electric current, and current events, 
those that run along as we read. Cur- 
rency once meant flowing ; it is now ap- 
plied to forms of exchange currently em- 

Though early Eng. cursen is a variant 
of Christen, curse is not related to cross. 
It is not found in Teut., Celtic, or Ro- 
mance ; the nearest form is OFr. curua, 
coroz (Fr. courroux, wrath) which is 
from OFr. corocier from LL. corruptiare, 
from com, altogether -f- rumpere, rupt — , 
to break, whence also Eng. rupture; see 
bank; rote. 

The currant is an abbreviation, via Fr. 
raisin de Corinthe, from Corinth; cp. 


See cutlet. 

curry ( sauce) ; curry favor. 

See turmeric. 

curse, cursive. 

See current. 

curt, curtail. 
See cutlet. 


See accoutrement. 


Every storekeeper hopes to make his 
customers his very own. That's what 
they are; from OFr. coustume, from L 
consuetudo, from consuere, to make 
one's own, from con, from com, to- 
gether -f- suus, one's own. Similarly a 
custom is that which one has made one's 
own, whether it be a way of acting 
or a thing to wear. Costume, via It. 
costume, is thus a doublet of custom. 
Note that habit, from L. habere, habit — , 
to have, has the same double sense 
(first in Eng., in the 13th c, as a 
way of dress). 


See cutlet. 


See hide. 

See acumen. 


See hide. 


See cutlet. 


This seems, of course, a little cut 
(of meat), considering usual portions. 
But the diminutive has been added, not 
to Eng. cut, but to Fr. cote, from OPf. 
coste, from L. costa, side, rib, Eng. 
coast. (It is, in truth, a double diminu- 
tive: — el \- ette.) A cutler, also, is 

not simply one that cuts, but — again a 
diminutive; just one — LL. cutellarius, a 
soldier armed with a knife, whence Eng. 
cutlass, from L. cultellus, knife, from 



culter, a ploughshare, whence AS. 
culler, whence Eng. coulter. This is 
probably related to L. colere, cultus, to 
till; whence cultivate; culture; cp. 
colonel. Cut is from Fr. ecourter, to 
cut short, irofn L. curtus, short, whence 
Eng. curt. Fr. ecourte gives us CM/Zy, 
siiort, as in the cutty sark which Burns' 
Tarn O' Shmitcr saw the witch dancing 
in. Curtail is from OFr. conrtald, from 
court, from ri<rtu.f, linked with the idea 
of docking a horse's tail. A course is 
a runway, or something to run through, 
as a course of studies; its diminutive 
currict'.luin, from L. fwrritj, chariot, 
ncc-course. Cp. car; hussar. 


See cutlet. 


This is from Gr. kyaneous, dark-blue, 
from which we have the Eng. combining 
forms cyan — and cyano — . But these 
forms may be used in that simple sense, 
or else as meaning related to cyanogen 
( — gen, from L. generare, to generate, to 
engender). Cyanogen was named by Gay- 


Lussac, when isolated in 1815. because it 
helped produce Prussian blue. The suffix 
— ide is used of simple compounds of one 
element with another or with a radical ; 
first, of oxide, from oxygen; cp. racy. 
Thus cyanide is a compound of cyanogen 
(CN ; carbon and nitrogen; also repre- 
sented as Cy) with a metal. Potassium 
cyanide (KCy) is a deadly poison, often 
referred to in crime plays and stories. 

The word oxide was formed, in French, 
by telescoping ojrygene and acide. 


See cyanide. 

See circus. 

cylinder. " 

See dickey. 

cynic, cynosure. 

.SV^ canary. 


.See shad. 



See date. 


Sec abbot. 


A daedal hand is one as skilled as that 
of Daedalus, the builder of the ancient 
labyrinth of Crete, said also to have in- 
vented the saw and the axe. He was held 
as a prisoner in Crete ; but fashioned 
wings for himself and his son Icarus (Gr. 
Daidalos; Icaros) to escape. Over-con- 
fidently flying too high, Icarus ventured 
too near the sun. which melted the wax 
by which his wings were attached ; he fell 
into the sea thereafter called the Icarian 
— hence an Icarian venture is one over- 

See demon. 


The Greeks had a flower they called 
the asphodel; its blossoms covered the 
Elysian fields, the abode of the blessed; 
hence, Eng. Elysian. By way of LL. 
affodillus this became Eng. affodill. The 
Eng. for spotted (like an apple) was 
appled, later dappled: G. apfelgrau is 
Eng. dapple-grey. Similarly the flower 
became the daffodil; more playfully, the 
daffydowndilly of the poets' garlands. 

See Appendix II. 


See tuberose. 


This word has traveled a bit, via OFr. 
dainte, deintie, from L. dignitatem, worth, 
beauty — whence also Eng. dignity; cp. 
supercilious. A person of proper quality 
will be particular in his tastes ; hence 
the word came to mean fastidious ; then 
it was transferred from the person to the 

object of his delight, the present usual 
application. The word nice {q.v.) has 
had a converse journeying. 


See lady. 


See flower. 


See dollar. 


While chemists use Daltonian to refer 
to the atomic theory, first set forth by 
John Dalton (1766 — 1844), doctors apply 
it to color-blindness ; particularly, they 
call green-blindness Daltonism, from the 
fact that the English chemist was thus 


To inflict a loss upon, to cause or de- 
vote to harm, was in L. dampnare, dam- 
nare ; whence Eng. damn, damnation. A 
LL. form damnaticum, via OFr. damage, 
dommage (Fr. dommage means loss, pity) 
led to Eng. damage. To damn and to 
condemn (L. com, altogether, as an in- 
tensive; cp. commence) were at first the 
same, then condemn was used for ec- 
clesiastical and legal actions. To make 
clear of loss is to indemnify (L, in, not 
-\- damn — -\- fie ere, from faccre, to 
make; cp. defeat.) The French suggest 
that danger (q.v.) is via damnarium from 
L. damnun : that which leads to loss. 


This famous city, which itself has 
given us some words (cp. cloth), is 
named from a story. It is supposedly 
the place where Cain slew Abel : the 
field of blood, from Heb. dam, blood. 
Doubtless, as with many other names, 
the story was applied after the name. 


See cloth. 





See damsel. 

damn, damnation. 

See damage. The dam across a stream 
is common Teut. Note that the expres- 
sion of unconcern is not profanity but 
"I don't give a dam" or "a tinker's dam". 
The tinker's dam is the older expression : 
the little dam of dough to hold the solder 
in place until it hardened; then the dam 
was thrown away. A dam is also a small 
Indian coin, and the phrase seems to have 
grown independently as an Anglo-Indian 
phrase. These may be folk euphemisms. 


This term for a danger that may drop 
instanter upon the victim is from the 
sword of Damocles, who having flattered 
Dionysius of Syracuse was set at a feast 
by Dionysius, but over his head a sword 
hung by a hair — symbolic of the situation 
of the monarch. 


See damsel. 

damp, dampen, damper. 
See dump ; wet blanket. 


The Roman lord of the house, dominus 
(see dome), had as his mate domina, the 
mistress, lady. In OFr. this was shorten- 
ed via damna and damme to dame. The 
diminutive form was, variously, for the 
\oung lady, dameisele, danzele, damaiselle, 
then damoiselle — from which the Eng.. 
variants grew — among them damoiselle, 
damosel, damozel, damsel. My lady is 
madame; her junior (now the unmarried 
miss), madamoiselle. The damson is a 
variety of plum, from damasen, damas- 
cene, from Damascene, from L. Damasce- 
num, of Damascus, q.v. Stick in your 
thumb and pull out a damsel. 

See damsel. 


Hey ding a ding ding 

Fair maids in a ring. 

The origin of dance seems to have been 
the round dance, or ring : the word is 
first used in the Romance tongues, ap- 
parently borrowed from OHG. danson, to 
stretch out. In the sense in which we 
use the word, it was reborrowed from 
It. danzQre, OFr. danser, into G. tanzen 
and our jolly Eng. dance. 


See Appendix II. 


See flower ; cp. indenture. 

danger, dangerous. 

A charming lady named Dmigerose 
once yielded to the importunities of 
Damase, the Lord of Asnieres ; defy- 
ing the curses of Thigh, 37th Bishop 
of Mans, they lived in love together. 
One day, as the Lord was crossing a 
stream, a violent storm arose; sirickeri 
by lightning and overwhelmed by \hc 
waters, the wicked Damase was half- 
burned, half -drowned, and passed tu 
perdition. The distraught Danc/erose 
tlircw herself at the Bishop's feet in 
penitence; she lived thereafter in strict 
retirement. But her story spread far; 
and, whenever anything drew peril after 
it, the French said "Ceci scut la 
Danqerosc" Hence arose Fr., 
whence Eng. dangerous. 

This monitory tale seems only a little 
less credible than the accepted etymology 
•of danger, from OFr. dongier, from 
LL. dotniniariiim, from dominium, rule, 
Eng. dominion; the early sense of i;i 
danger of being "subject to the juris- 
diction of" (If true, this derivation 
shows how the subjects feared their 
overlords : power indeed spelled danger 
to those beneath it ! ) Cp. damage, dome. 


This word illustrates the triumph of 
brain over brawn. It is common Teut. 
meaning heavy, powerful (tapfer still 
means warlike in German). Then, as 
did the victory, the sense shifted to 
clever, smart, neat in operation, then neat 
in appearance, dapper. 


See daffodil. 

dark, darken, darkle. 

See swivel. 


See gossip. Viking. 


This word jumped a generation. It 
was first applied to the poetic style of 
Erasmus Danvin (English, 1731—1802). 
But his importance dwindled as that of 
his grandson grew ; and the word nowa- 
days almost always refers to the evolu- 
tionary theories of Charles Danvin (1809 




—1882), as in The Origin of Species. 
1859. and The Descent of Man, 1871. 


See flash. 


See date, sequin. 


When you make a date with some- 
one, you set a time. This given time 
(L. dare, dat — , to give, whence Eng. 
data) is the date. In ancient Rome, let- 
ters began : Data Romae, given at Rome. 
-{- the time. Hence data, Eng. date came 
to be used of the indication of the time. 

If, however, it is the sweet friiit of 
the palm-tree you desire, you have 
it in your finger. It is from OFr. 
dacte, from Gr. daktylos, finger, from 
the shape of the fruit. (The — /, mis- 
taken for the Teut. diminutive, was 
dropped.) The dactyl as a foot in 
verse is also a finger : it consists ojf 
one long division and two short — like 
the finger itself. AS. for date was 
fingeraepla, finger-apple. (It is sug- 
gested, however, that the Gr. dactyl 
for the fruit is folk-etymology, cor- 
rupting the unfamiliar Arab. daqaJ or 
Aram, dagla, palm.) See helicopter. 

daub, dauber. 

See auburn. 

See son. 


This was taken by early Fr. nobles 
as a title : L. delphinus, whence Eng. 
dolphin (Gr. delphis, dolphin. The Eng. 
delphin is used to refer to things pertain- 
ing to the Dauphin; but also as a vafiant 
of delphic, referring to the oracle of 
Delphi, at the temple to Af"'^ in the 
town of Delphi on the slope of Mount 
Parnassus. Because of Apollo their 
leader — their mother was Mnemosyne, 
Memory ; cp. amnesty — the mountain was 
devoted to the Muses ; hence Eng. Par- 
nassian). Humbert II yielded the prov- 
ince of Dauphine to Philip of Valois, 
1349, on condition that the title of 
Dauphin be always borne by the king's 
eldest son. 

See Appendix II. 


See dude. It may be a variant of 
earlier dadde, to walk unsteadily ; re- 

lated to dodder and dither. Dither, 
earlier didder, is a variant of dodder, 
imitative of hesitant nodding and 

See week. 


See dole ; cp. augment. The word deal 
is common Teut., both as a plank, and 
as a portion. To deal is to give a portion, 
a lot [note how desire has increased lot 
(common Teut., AS. Mot, portion) from 
a portion to o lot, a large portion]. From 
the frequency of cheating at cards (or 
from fate's foul dealing) comes the de- 
sire for a fair deal or a square deal. 


This word (though not recorded in 
Gothic) is common Teut., OE. deore, 
diore, OHG. tiuri, glorious, worthy, cost- 
ly. From these senses, there developed 
the meanings, desired; hence, beloved. 
Just as wealth (q.v.) comes from weal, 
so from dear comes dearth, which first 
meant high price, hence the current sense 
of scarcity. 

See dear. 


Even in early days it was understood 
that the purpose of argument is not 
to determine the truth, but to beat 
down (L. de, down -f- battuere, beat) 
one's opponent. As society grew more 
polite, the word debate took on its 
present meaning. The sense of strife 
remains in combat (L. cotn, con, 
against) and noncombatant. Cp. argue; 

See strategy. 


If you know a little French, you may 
take this as de bon air, of good air, 
well-appearing. But a person of good 
breeding and race will look well ; the 
word means of good race : it is drawn 
from falconry, and refers to a bird 
de bon aire, of good aery. But this 
eyrie or nest of the hawk, high in 
the air, is spelled aerie, aery, eyrie, 
or eyry : it is a combination of LL. 
aeria, whence area, an open space (Eng. 
area; cp. aureole) and Gr. aer, air — 
so that your guess in the first place 




was partly right after all. Aeronaut 
is aer -\- nauta, sailor ; see nausea. 

See strategy. 


The L. de, from (to knock the 
bunk out of) has been added to this 
useful word. It is short for buncombe, 
and arose during the debates on the 
Missouri Compromise. Felix Walker, 
the member from Buncombe County, 
North Carolina, refused to stop for a 
vote, declaring that he was talking not 
to the House but to his constituents 
in Buncombe. 

debut, debutante. 

See butt. 

decade, decadence, decalogue, 

See decay, number. 


See number. 


The Greeks beat time with the foot ; 
raising it (Gr. arsis, raising, from 
aisein, to lift ; whence Eng. arsis) and 
putting it down (Gr. thesis, "puttihg, 
from tithenai, to put ; whence Eng. 
thesis; cp. Spoonerism). The Romans, 
however, used the term arsis for the 
raising of the voice with the first 
syllable of a foot of verse ; hence the 
same word arsis meant 'unaccented' to 
the Greeks and 'accented' to the Ro- 
mans. Gradually the Romans substi- 
tuted their own word, from cadere, 
to fall, It. and Eng. cadenza; so that 
now we speak of the cadence of a 
passage, where Shakespeare, in the 
opening lines of Twelfth Night, asks 
for "that strain again ; it had a dying 
fall." The word is different, the mean- 
ing is the same. With prefix L. de, 
down, off, away, we have decadence ; 
and, via OFr. decair, Eng. decay. 

A decade, however, is from Gr. dekas, 
dekad — , a group of ten, from deka, 
ten. As a combining form, deka — or 
deca — is common in numbers. It also 
gives us decalogue, the ten command- 
ments. In Florence, in 1348, there was 
a plague ; Boccaccio tells us of a group 
that left the city to avoid the pestilence ; 
for ten days they told one another 
stories, which it took Boccaccio ten 
years to set down, but which are pre- 

served in the famous Decameron, from 
It. Decamerone, from Gr. deca, ten, -|- 
hemera, day. The Decameron has lasted 
far more than a decade, and yet is far 
from decay. 

Things that occur upon a day, then 
pass, are ephemeral (Gr. epi, upon, -|- 
hemera, day), like the ephemera. 


See ancestor. 

deceit, deceive. 

See recipe. 


See month. 


See recipe. 


When indecision has come to an end, 
and thought must yield to action, we 
have decided. This was once a strong 
word of action, from L. decidere, 
decis — , from de, down -\- caedere, to cut. 
From the past participle comes the blow 
that cuts opposition down, tHe de- 
cisive action. Cp. shed. 


See cipher. 


See decide. 


This was early a noun and a verb: 
Du. dckken, to cover, from an earlier 
Teut. stem thek, thak ; whence also OE. 
thacc, Eng. thatch. To deck (emphatic, 
bedeck) is thus to cover, clothe, adorn. 
And a d.,.k, as on a ship, was a roof 
over part of the vessel (first, the stern). 
When cards are stacked one on top of 
another, they form a deck. The diminu- 
tive of deck is deckle; this was used of a 
frame that covered the pulp, in paper- 
.naking, and set the size of the sheet; 
hence, deckle-edge, the rough edge made 
by this frame. It is not a man trying to 
prevent cheating at cards, however, that 
calls "All hands on deck!" 

Cognate with the Teut. thek is L. 
tegcre, tect — , to cover (related to tan- 
gere, tact — , to touch; whence intact; 
hence also, via Fr. tacher, come Eng. 
detach and attach; but see attack for the 
Teut. form — and also texere, text — , to 
weave; cp. text); whence Eng. tegu- 
ment and integument. Integer and intcg- 



rity are influenced by L. tegere, but are 
primarily from L. in, not. + tangcre, 
tact—; thus intact and integral are doub- 
lets. And, via Fr. entier, untouched, 
whole, Eng. entire is a doublet of integer. 
Hen'-e also contact (L. con, com, togeth- 
er). From LL. contaminare, contatn- 
ifiat — , from contagmen, from con, to- 
gether -I- tangere, comes Eng. contamina- 
tion, hence a doublet of contagion. Via 
the adjective L. contiguus comes Eng. 
contiguous; contiguity. Hence as well 
contingent (also cotangent) and the acci- 
dent or contingency, which brings things 
together (as an auto and a pedestrian). 
From L. attingere, to touch to, to reach, 
comes Eng. attain, q.v. The frequentative 
of tangere, tact — , to touch, is tactare, to 
handle (related to Gr. taktikaf, from Gr. 
tassein, to arrange, whence tactics, q.i^) 
and its variant taxare; whence, via OFr. 
tasche, Eng. task; but also, changing 
meaning from handling to estimating 
what you handle, then setting a price pn 
it, comes Eng. tax; cp. taxi, taste. 

There is no Eng. verb from simple 
tegere, tect — . to cover; but to uncover 
something is to detect it (L. de, from) ; 
whence Hawkshaw, Sherlock Holmes, 
and the other descendants of C. Auguste 
Dupin. the finst fictional detective. 


See deck. 

decline, declivity. 

5"^^ climate. 


The dispute as to the source of this 
word has not yet ended. Coy is from 
L. quietus, whence quiet, shy, retiring. 
To decoy is therefore to win frdm 
(L. de, from) its quiet. There is an 
earlier Eng. acoie, acoy. But there is 
also a Du. kooi, a cage for entrapping 
wild fowl, ultimately from L. cavea; 
cp. cabal. The de is then explained 
either as the Du. article de, the; or 
as short for duck: duck-kooi, whence 
decoy. One proponent of the first 
theory suggests, then, that acoy is prob- 
ably from quack-kooi. In parts of Eng. 
a live, tame duck, used to attract the 
wild ones, is called a coy duck. We 
may speak of a coy darling, but a 
decoy is a snare. 

See verdict. 

See duke. 



This is common Teut., OK doeman, 
OHG. tuomen, related to doom; cp. dome. 
It first meant to give judgment; hence, 
to estimate, to judge, to form an opinion. 
Doom retains the awesome sense. 


See turtle. 

See treacle, cp. beast. 


The scientific term falculate, sickle- 
shaped (L. falculus, diminutive of 
falx. falc—. sickle) retains the literal 
sense of this word : L. de, down, + 
falcate, falcat—, to cut. Applied fig- 
uratively to a dishonest servant who 
"cuts down" his master's possessions, it 
has retained the meaning of one that 
takes others' money. 


This is literally to unmake, to destroy, 
from LL. diffacere, diffeci, diffect—, from 
L. dc, away, -h facere, fact— , to make. 
In its affirmative aspect, this is one of 
the most fertile of all words. A thing 
made is a fact. A faction was, first the 
act of doing ; then applied in Rome to a 
company of contractors for the circus 
chariot races ; hence by extension, a group 
or party (with im.plications, from the 
early days, of unscrupulus ways of seek- 
ing their ends). (For fiction, see faint.) 
What might be done was L. facilis, easy ; 
hence, Eng. facile and facility. One who 
makes is a factor; hence, in business, one 
who tends to affairs for another; one of 
the circumstances that helps make some- 
thing: a factor in his rise to power; a 
factor in arithmetic. The power to do 
something is the faculty; by extension, 
that which one can do, a field of knowl- 
edge; hence, the persons in that depart- 

Many compounds are formed from the 
word jacere, feci, fact—. Hence, e.g., 
Eng. affect (to do to, q.v.) ; effect (em- 
phatic; what is done, the result); con- 
fectionery (q.v.) ; defect; disinfect; effi- 
cient ( from present participle : that which 
is making out well) ; infect; perfect (to 
carry through); prefect; refection (to 
remake, restore). By way of Fr. faire, 
fait, from facere come other words: 
suffice; profit; affair (made toward) ; 
benefit (well made) ; counterfeit; fit 
(made, suited) ; forfeit. Satisfaction (L. 
satis, enough) ; rarefaction, and many 
more. The fashion is the manner of doing 




(L. faction — ) ; the factotum (L. totum, 
all) is the Jack-of -all-trades. Malfeas- 
ance (L. mal, ill) calls for the pontiff, 
q.v. L. fabrica, whence Eng. fabric and 
fabricate, is from L. faber, fabr — , smith, 
which is earlier facber, one that can 
make ; via OFr. fabrica, faurca, this gives 
lis forge. 

To forge ahead is a corruption of 
force, which is via LL. form fortia from 
L. fors, fort — . strong; cp. saxophone. 

With prefixes facere became — ficare or 
— ficere; whence all our words ending in 
— fication; and, via Fr. — fier, words end- 
ing in — fy; such as amplify; vivify; 
classification (see class) ; vitrification; 
and also through the Fr., words ending in 
— flee and — fie (Fr. — fique), such as 
artifice; orifice (L. or — , mouth; cp. in- 
exorable) ; soporific (L. sopor, sleep) ; 
honorific; office (L. opus, work, plural 
opera, as at the Metropolitan, New York: 
office was. originally, the work to be 
done; then, the post, as the office of 
sheriff ; then, the place, as the sheriff's 
office); pacify (L. pax, pad — , peace; 
cp. propaganda) ; and hundreds more. 
Which would be not only sufficient but 
surfeit.' But this word, if not a feature 
(L. factura, thing to be made, hence 
shape; OFr. failure), is a feat (thing 
done) ! 

See defeat. 


See plot. 

See suffer. 


See fylfot. 

See finance. 


See flamingo. 

See formula. (L. de, from). 

See sponge. 

See gauss. 


See racy. 

degrade, degree. 

See issue. 

See supercilious. 


See theology. 


See wasp. 


See States. 

See suffer. 

See delight. 


See liberty.' 

delicacy, delicious. 
5"^^ delight. 


The gh in this word is a mistaken 
addition, from the long i sound — and 
perhaps by association of that which 
brings joy with brightness. Delight is 
from OFr. deliter, delitier, from L. 
delectare, to please: the frequentative 
of delicio, delect, to taste, then to 
enjoy. From this we have delectable; 
also, (from Fr. delice, a delicacy) de- 
licious. Delicio has been traced by two 
paths: (1) de -\- lacio, lacere, to snare, 
whence laques, a noose — from which, 
via L. laceus, we derive our Icuso, and 
via LL. lacium, our lace, which first 
meant a snare, a net ; and (2) de -|- 
licio, from lingere, lictus, to lick. From 
lick comes the idea of taste, hence to 
enjoy. Somewhere along these paths 
may be the origin of the lacteal fluid, 
the first that anyone tastes; and lactic 
acid. Hence the lacteous circle in the 
heavens, the Milky Way, the Galaxy 
(Gr. galaxias, from galakt — , from 
gala, milk; L. lac, lact — , milk). The 
delect — from this source is not to be 
confused with the compounds of lego, 
led — ; see legible. 

Note that your latch-key is a recent 
acquisition ; the earlier latch was a noose, 
its diminutive latchet, via OFr. from LL. 
laciare from L. lacere, to bind, snare. 


See Achilles tendon. 





That which is strange is often feared, 
therefore hated ; otherwise it may be 
called mad. In Sp. novedad, novelty, is 
commonly a synonym for danger. If 
a fellow doesn't follow the rut, he must 
be out of his mind — at least in the 
opinion of the Romans, who fashioned 
the word delirium from L. de, away 
from + lira, furrow. Herein lies one 
of the greatest obstacles to world peace. 

Delirium tremens, as in alcoholics, 
adds tremens, from L. tremere, to 
quake. The gerundive tremendus, 
whence Eng. tremendous, which at first 
meant fearsome, then was transferred 
from the emotion to its cause. The L. 
adj. tremulus, whence the noun tremor 
and (through It.) tremolo, led to L. 
tremulare, whence Fr. trembler, whence 
Eng. tremble. Though one may become 
almost delirious with joy, the word is 
not connected with delight, q.v. 


See dauphin. 


See ante — , lotion. 


See pedagogue. 


See command. 

demean, demeanor, demesne. 

See mean. 

demi — . 

See semi — . 


This is not half a johnny, but a 
corruption of Fr. dame-jeanne. Lady 
Jane. The same word occurs in Sp. 
and It., among sailors, nor is it known 
in which language it came first. It 
may be a corruption of Damaghan, a 
Persian town where glassware was man- 
ufactured. Sailors had many words for 
liquors and the jugs in which they 
came ; probably the shape of this one 
suggested a portly lady. In the 17th c. 
a drinking jug called bellarmine was a 
caricature of a cardinal by that name. 
The sailor's drink, grog, is from the 
nickname, Old Grog (from grogram 
cloak), of Admiral Vernon of the Brit- 
ish navy, who (in August, 1740) or- 
dered that the rum be diluted. None- 
theless, groggy means unsteady. Grog- 

ram, earlier grograin is from Fr. gros 
grain, coarse grain (of cloth). 


The suffix — cracy (Gr. kratia, 
power, rule, from kratos, strength, 
whence kratein, to rule) means gov- 
ernment by, as in aristocracy (Gr. 
aristos, best), plutocracy (Gr. ploutds, 
wealth), bureaucracy, government by 
administrative officials. {Bureau is 
Fr. from burel, diminutive of bure, 
a coarse woolen cloth of red- 
dish brown — with which early desks 
were covered — L. burrus, from Gr. 
purros, purple, red. Hence — ^but not 
etymologically — red tape, with which 
the decrees from the offices, bureaus, 
were bound.) Gr. demos, from Sansk. 
de, divide, point, originally meant the 
division of a country or tribe ; thence, 
the people. See pedagogue. 


See demon. 


This word, from Gr. daimon or daim- 
onion, was first used of a demi-god, a 
spirit ranking between gods and men, in- 
cluding the spirits of the dead Greek 
heroes. This is still often spelled daemon 
or daimon, to distinguish these creatures 
from their bedevilment ; for to the Jews 
and the later Christians they were all 
demons, i.e., evil spirits. The word gives 
us a number of compounds, such as 
demonology, demonomachy (Gr. machia, 
battle), dcmonifuge (L. — fuge, to drive 
away, as febrifuge; also fugitive; cp. 
devil.) The monster Demogorgon, how- 
ever, is rather from Gr. demos, people, 
-)- gorqos, terrible : the infernal being 
summoned in rites of magic (made popu- 
lar through his listing in Boccaccio's 
genealogy of the gods). The Gorgons 
were snake-haired monsters (the head of 
one. Medusa, adorns Athene's shield). 


See monster. 


A denizen is not one that lives in a 
den. In early times, all unenclosed land 
was forest. Thus L. fors, outside, gives 
us forest; also, with the adjective end- 
ing L. — aneus, by way of Fr. — ain, 
Eng. foreign. The same ending, applied 
to one that dwells within (L. de intus, 
from within, whence OFr. deins, Fr. 
dans) gives us denizen. Cp. door. 



A den, from OE. denn, is the place 
where a wild beast dwells — which would 
be the opposite of the denizen's home. 
Den is related to the infrequent Eng. 
word dean, dene, meaning valley. The 
dean of a college or church (originally 
also, of an army) is from OFr. deien 
(whence Fr. doyen), from L. decanum, 
leader of ten, from L. decern, ten ; 
r/". decay. The church deacon, however, 
is from Gr. diakonos, servant (of the 

See indenture. 

See east. 


See aggravate. 

See arsenic, painter. 


See pluck. 


See posthumous. 


See port. 


See private. 


See by-law. 


That at which we can laugh is Eng. 
risible, from L. rider e, ris — ; whence our 
risibility. But if we laugh something 
down, we deride it (L. de, down) ; hence 
also derisive and derisory (passive and 
active forms). From the diminutive, 
something that makes us laugh just a 
little is ridiculous. 

The slang expression, to ride someone, 
has no relation to this rider e; it is figura- 
tive, as though one mounted and rode 
around on an ass. Cp. riding. 

derivation, derive. 
See rival. 


This originally meant to ask for 
less, from L. derogare, derogat — , from 
de, down, + rogare, to ask ; then to 
lessen (applied figuratively, to lessen in 
esteem). See quaint. 



This instrument for hoisting things 
was first applied to persons. About 
the beginning of the 17th c. — when 
the English should have forgotten their 
earlier scorn of the Dutch {qv.), the 
hangman at Tyburn prison was named 
Derrick. Either he had an exceptionally 
large number of clients, or he was an 
exceptionally large man ; at any rate, 
his name was transferred to the in- 
strument; thence, to any machine for 
hoisting. A short form of the same 
name. Dirk, was applied to some of 
his victims — the sneak thief and the 
picklock; thence, to the short knife or 
dirk such a man might carry. 


Meaning first literally to climb down, 
this word is also applied figuratively, as 
with one's descendants. To ascend is of 
course to climb up (L. de, down; as, ad, 
up, toward, -\- scandere, scans — ; cp. eche- 
lon). Facilis descensus Averni, easy is 
the road to hell ; cp. tavern. 

See shrine. 


See anathema. 

desert, deserve. 

See family. 


See desire. 


The stage-struck young that moon upon 
a star with vain desire are caught in the 
root of the word : L. de, from, -|- sidus, 
sidcr — , star. This is more readily noted 
in the formal word desiderate, from L. 
desiderare, to yearn for, to lack, i.e., to 
be away from one's lucky star. From the 
same source, however, OFr. shaped de- 
sidrcr, desirrer, whence Fr. desirer and 
Eng. desire. Cp. consider. Thus there is 
more than the attraction of light in "the 
desire of the moth for the star". (The 
use of moon, in the sense above is a com- 
bination of honeymoon and the mooti- 
struck swain; cp. pants. Moon is com- 
mon Teut., AS. mono; cp. month.) 


See desperado. 


See dispatch. 




A cornered rat fights ; it cannot run 
away. VVe speak of the fury of de- 
spair; and desperado is the past parti- 
ciple of OSp. desperar, to despair: a 
desperate one, from L. desperate, des- 
perat — , from de, without -\-sper, hope. 
It is a sad reflection on human hopes 
(hat the word sper has come to us only 
in its negative forms; hope itself u 
a late word, from AS. hoptan, to hope. 
Note tliat in the expression forlorn 
hope, we have not the same word, but 
Du. verloren hoop, lost heap: the group 
of men that must make the breach and 

See spouse. 


See husband. 


See family. 

destine, destiny. 

Sec season. 


SV^ season ; tank. 


To pile things up was L. struere, 
struct — . (Quite the opposite of the com- 
mon Teut. strew, which meant to scatter 
things around : AS. strewian, closely re- 
lated to the noun AS. streow, streaw, 
whence Eng. straw, which is strezvn in 
stables.) To put things together is thus 
to construct something; but also (to put 
two and two together), to construe it. 
The reverse of this process leads to the 
destruction of what has been builded; 
via a LL. form destrugere and OFr. 
destruire the Eng. verb is destroy, as be- 
fell the ancient Troy. Besides the struc- 
ture of our society, we have from , this 
source instruct, obstruct (to pile in the 
way) ; instrument (that with which to 
build). And industry is from L. indus, 
within, -f struua, stria, from struere; 
whence industrialism, which is not in- 

Instruction (piling in) grows from a 
theory of child training the converse of 
education, which is from L. e, ex, out 4- 
ducere, duct — , to lead ; cp. duke, doctor. 
Pack the information in; or draw the 
talents out. The former does not spare 
the rod, but may destroy the education. 


See destroy. 

See mastiff. 


See somersault. 


See attack, deck. 

detect, detective. 
See deck. 

deter, detergent. 

See terse. 


The termination is an ending, and a 
term is a period (that comes to an end). 
Terminal was first (and still may be) 
an adjective; the L. noun terminus has 
come directly into English : L. terminare, 
tcrminat — , to end ; terminus, boundary. 
From the limit itself, as in term of office 
or imprisonment, term grew to mean the 
limiting conditions (the terms of an 
agreement) ; hence, the defining (L. finis, 
end; cp. finance) of the idea, as in a term 
of reproach ; terminology. To determine 
is to set down limits or bounds to some- 
thing, as when you determine to perform 
a task, or as determinism pictures limits 
set to man's freedom. Predetermined fol- 
lows this sense ; but extermination comes 
later. Otherwise, existence would be in- 


See test. 


See attorney. 


See distraction. 

detriment, detritus. 
See terse. 


This is often an unlucky word (it 
is the lowest throw at dice; God did 
not look upon the work of his second 
day and find it good ; many peoples 
and sects, e.g., the Pythagoreans, re- 
garded the unit as the principle of pood, 
and tlic diiad as the evil principle). 
Tlie word, meaning two, from Fr. 
f^cit.x', from L. duos, thus came to be 
euphemistic for the devil. (Note that 
in Norm. Fr. god and the devil are 



tluis joined, in the word deus.) Deuce 
at tennis is from tlie Fr. a deux le 
jcu, two to play. 


Sec waist. 


Possibly from L. voliere, volut — , to 
roll, as in Eng. revolve ; cp. volume, came 
a root vclopcr, to ivrap; whence develop, 
to unfold — now used mainly figuratively, 
to unfold the possibilities of something. 
An envelop is for wrapping things in. The 
word rvrap itself, earlier wlap, but with 
its ultimate origin unknown, may have 
had a part in this development. 

See vacuum. 


See improvised. 


Apparently tiie greatest evil of old 
was slander ; for devil is OE. deofol, 
from Gr. diabolos (Eng. diabolic), 
traducer, slanderer, from diaballein. to 
slander, literally to throw across. Akin 
to the word febrifuge, something that 
makes a fever flee, Oliver Wendell 
Holmes coined the word diabolxfuqc, 
something that drives away the devil : 
from L. fugare, to put to flight. Refuge 
(L. re, back) and fugitive are from 
L. fugcre, to flee; refugee, (from Fr. 
refugic) was first applied to the 
Huguenots escaping after the revoca- 
tion of the Edict of Nantes (1685), 
when the devil seemed let loose — a 
frequent opinion of refugees, who are 
likely to favor the suggested etymology 
of devil as a contraction of do-evil! 
Cp. demon, Satan. 

See volume. 

See vote. 


See sarcophagus. 


This is a common Teut. word, OE. 
deaw, from an old Teut. form dauwo — ; 
Sansk. dhaw, to flow. It is often used 
in puns for do. which is also common 
Teut. ; cp. dome — as in the roadside in- 
vitation "Dew Drop Inn." Cp. inn. 



Various reasons have been suggested 
for the preference of the right liaiid ; 
esp., that in primitive times the left 
hand (with shield) guarded the licart, 
so that the right hand wielded the tools 
and the weapons. The right hand was 
favored, and a dextrous (or dexterous) 
person is one that can well use his 
right hand (L. dexter, dextr — , riglit ; 
dextra, the right hand). The left hand 
was by consequence associated with ill- 
omen, whence sinister (L. sinister, sin- 
istr — , left). Dextr — is a combining 
form in scientific words; mainly (as 
in dextrin, dextrose, grape sugar) of 
substances that cause the rays of 
polarized light to rotate to the right. 

Adroit is from Fr. a droit, with the 
right hand ; and in Fr. le droit, the 
right, also means, the law. We have 
gauche, gawk, and gawky, from Fr. 
gauche, left. We speak of our right- 
hand man, and of a left-handed com- 
pliment. Ambidextrous (L. ambi — , 
both) refers to someone gifted with two 
right hands . . . And yet one may 
praise the dexterity of a south-paw! 

It is suggested that dexter is from 
an Aryan^ root de, pointing; and left 
from Aryan le (Gr. laios; L. laevus) 
bent, as to hold a shield. Note that in 
Hebrew, jamin, right; siiiaul, left; in 
.Sansk. dakshina, savya; in Irish deas, 
tuaidh; right also means south; and 
left, north, as from the habit of facing 
east in prayer (to the sun?). The 
Greeks considered the home of the gods 
to be in the north ; their word for 
right also meant east ; for left, west. 

dextrose, dextrous. 
See dexterity. 

di — ; dia — . 

See diabetes. 


This word first meant a siphon. Then 
it was transferred (in ancient times) to 
the disease, which is marked by .an ex- 
cessive flow of urine. It is Gr. diabetes, 
from diabanein, to flow through; from 
dia, through, -f- banein, to go, to flow. 
.\n incessant downpour has been called a 
celestial diabetes. For its antidote, see 

The prefix dia — , through, across, is 
frequent in Eng. words. Thus dialect is 
Gr. dia — -|- legein, lek — , to speak : speak- 
ing through the tongue of a special region. 
And dialogue is similarly dia — -f logos. 



speech : talk across and back. The diam- 
eter is measured across, the circle. The 
diapason (Gr. pason, feminirf p'nr?,l, 
genitive, of pan, pas, all) goes ail acioss 
the scale. The diaphragm (Gr. pliragma, 
fence, from phrassein, to fence about) 
builds a fence across the middle of the 
body ; by extension, similar partitions. 
Diathermy is a treatment that sends heat 
(Gr. thermon, heat; cp. season) through. 
The systole of the heart (Gr. sy — , synt — , 
together, + stole, from stellcin, to put, 
to send) is balanced by the diastole. 

There are two prefixes that might be 
confused with Gr. dia — . From the Gr. 
is di — . short for dis, twice, as in disyll- 
able, dichloride ; this corresponds to L. 
hi — as in biceps; cp. achieve. And from 
the L. is di — , short for dis — , away, 
apart, as full in disappear but short in 
diminish, diploma, q.v., disection, also dis- 
section; but note dichotomy (L. di — , 
dis — , apart, + L. sect — cut ; Gr. di — , 
two, dicha — , in two + tomos, from 
temnein, to cut ; cp. anatomy ) . 

See devil. 


As a water-dial or a sundial, this mark- 
ed the hours of the day ; from L. dialis 
(from diurnalis) from dies, day. A fre- 
quent and pleasant motto on a sundial 

Nonmimero horas nisi sercnas : 
I count only the hours that ? • e serene — 

which is literally true of the dial, as we 
wish it might be, figuratively, of our 
selves. Cp. jury. 

dialect, dialogue, diameter. 

See diabetes. 


The jewel i*. named from its hardness, 
LL. diamas, iiamant — being a corrup- 
tion of adamas, from which we have 
the word adamant. Adamas is Gr., a, 
the negative prefix -\- damaein, tame. 
Spenser {Faerie Oueene 1, 6, 4) and 
^iilton (Paradise Lost VI, 364) speak 
of a "rock of diamond." The Eng. 
wT^rd tame, Goth, tamjan, is cognate 
with the L. domare (from which we 
have indomitable) and the Gr. damaein. 
Thus a diamond is a stone untamed. 
Cp. dome. 


See flf\/er. 


See diabetes. 


See focus. 

diaphragm, diastole, diathermy. 

See diabetes. 

See tribulation. 


Cp. ninepins. Dice is the plural of 
die, from ME. dc., dee, dey (it was a 
popular game!), from L. datum, given, 
trom dare, dat—, to give. See sequin. 


See diabetes. 


To dicker with some one sounds like 
slang today, but it is an old and wide- 
spread word. The Romans used, as a 
basis for bargaining with the tribes 
they met on all frontiers, a set of ten 
(hides), L. decuria, set of ten, from 
decern, ten. This term passed :nto most 
of the north European languages, and 
when the whites came to America they 
tried to dicker with the Indians. 

dickey, dicky. 

Etymologists are hard put to it to 
explain how names of persons come to 
be used for objects (e.g., jack for 
money). Thus they say that dick, mean- 
ing long words, is short for dictionary; 
and that dick, in "to make one's dick," 
is short for declaration; this still leaves 
a dozen standard and slang uses un- 
accounted for . . . even more for jack, 
not to mention johnny. A dickey is a 
piece of a shirt — the front part of a 
full-dress stiff-shirt, to give waiters 
expanse rnd save them expense — it 
':eems to have no relation to the dickey 
bird; but this shirt front was earlier 
called tommy — perhaps by college slang, 
from Gr. tome, section ; cp. insect. "In 
the reign of Queen Dick" was a way 
of saying "Never," like "at the Greek 
Calends" — these existed in the Roman 
calendar, but not in the Greek. 

L. colore, to proclaim solemnly, gives 
strength to the theory of Karl Marx, 
that economics is at the base of our 
doings ; for from it comes L. calendar, 
whence Eng. calends, the first of the 
Roman month ; solemnly proclaimed : 
the days that accounts were reckoned 



and paid. The first meaning of L. 
calendarium was account -book ; hence 
our calendar. To intercalate (from L. 
inter, between -f calare) was to tuck 
an extra day between the months ; as 
Augustus Caesar did with August, as 
we do with February in Leap Year. 
There are three words that might be 
confused with calendar. Two of them 
are spelled calender: one, from Pers. 
qalander, a begging dervish ; one, from 
LL. caJundra, from Gr. cylindros 
(whence Eng. cylinder) from cylindrein, 
to roll. And colander or cullender, 
from LL. colatoriutn; strainer, from 
colare, to strain. Watching the calendar 
often is a strain. 

dictaphone, dictate. 
See verdict. 

See jury, verdict. 

See verdict. 


See Appendix II. 

See sequin. 

See suffer. 

See futile. 


The literal sense of this word is to 
carry apart, from L. di, from dis, 
apart + gerere, to carry. It was first 
used in the two senses of to scatter 
and to sort. The latter prevailed ; in 
the mid-fifteenth century the word 
came to mean to sort out ideas in the 
mind ; and a little later, to sort out the 
valuable parts of food (in the stomach, 
preparing it for assimilation). 5"^^ 
knick-knack; joke. 

digit, digitalis. 
See flower ; cp. prestige. 

See supercilious; under. 

See issue. 


See lampoon. 

dilate, dilatory. 

See suffer. 


See diploma. 

See sacrifice. 


See meticulous. 

See nickel. 


See meticulous. 


See cloth. 

dine, dinner. 

See jejune. 


When the secrets of prehistoric life 
were unearthed, scientists tried to pic- 
ture the feelings of those confronted by 
the great monsters whose fossil bones 
were coming again to light. Sir Richard 
Owen (English, 1804—1892) named a 
few of these creatures, from Gr. words. 
Thus there was the terrible lizard (Gr. 
deinos, fearful, + sauros, lizard), which 
he christened (1841) the dinosaur. Years 
later he named the terrible bird, the 
dinornis (Gr. omis, bird; whence also 
ornithology ; cp. tavern). A decade ear- 
lier, the general term deinothere, dinothere 
(Gr. therion, wild animal), had been ap- 
plied to an early species. (For mastodon, 
see indenture.) 


See turtle. 


This word is from Gr. diphthera, 
skin ; a pseudo-skin is formed in the 
throat during the disease. On the 
diphthera of the goat Amalthea, Jupiter 
wrote the destiny of mankind. 


Graduates today receive a single sheet 
(sometimes, still, of parchment) ; but 
it once was folded : Gr. diploma, folded 
sheet, from diplous, double. The offi- 
cial bearer of such a sheet was a 



Tlie L. form, duo, two, whence dupli- 
carc, duplicat — ; duo -\- plicare, to fold, 
gives us duplicate, duplicity (one's pur- 
pose doubled over) and the duplex 
apartment. Double is from L. duplus, 
Horn duo + plere, plu — , to fill, by 
way of the Fr. double; L. dubiwn, 
whence doubt, is also from duo, as the 
mind hesitates betwen two alternatives : 
what the Gr. would call a dilemma, Gr. 
ji, two -f- lemma, assumption, from 
lambanein, to take. Perhaps it is when 
a diplomat is in a dilemma that he 
tries duplicity. (Dupe, however, has a 
quite different origin, being another 
form of OE. huppe, the hoopoe, from 
L. upupa, which was considered a 
stupid bird.) 


See diploma. 

See drink; cp. mania. 

direct, direction, directoire, directory. 

See royal. 


See remnant. 

See derrick. 

dirt. , 

Dirty and soiled are synonyms; but 
by different routes to the one mean- 
ing. Dirt is from ON. drit, excrement; 
thence it was applied to fertilizer, 
muck, mud; then :earth— so that^ now 
we can hear the expression "good, 
clean dirt." Soil is two words. The 
first began where dirt ended: from 
OFr. soul, from L. solum, ground. The 
o'.licr meant to wallow in the ground, 
hence to stain oneself: from Fr. souil- 
ler, whence Eng. sully, from AS. sylian, 
whence AS. sol, wallow. 


See urn. 


Consider (from L. con, from com, 
together + sidus, sider—, star) how the 

conjunction of stars affects your for- 
tune, for if propitious planets are not 
at hand, you may meet disaster (from 
L. dis, &wzy -\- aster, star). The star- 
siiaped flower, the aster, bears this L. 
name; whence also the little sign we 
call an asterisk. In Shakespeare's Julius 


Caesar, Brutus is reminded that our 
fate lies "not in our stars, but in 
ourselves" — which becomes the central 
theme of Barrie's Dear Brutus. 

The science of stars is astronomy 
(Gr. nomia, arrangement) ; at first this 
science was called astrology (Gr. logos, 
word, reason) ; but for the ancients the 
most important part was reading the 
future in the stars, which today seems 
rather superstition than science. The 
Romans paid considerable heed to the 
heavens, and had still a third word for 
star, L. Stella. This gives us a girl's 
name; also stellar; stellio, the star- 
marked lizard ; a group of stars, con- 
stcllation; and stellify, to turn into a 
star, as happened to the Gonini (twins). 
Castor and Pollux. 

Star is common Teut., AS. steorra, 
G. Stern; cognate with L. Stella, from 
sterla. The L. aster is borrowed, from 
Gr. aster; Sank. star. Consternation is 
not directly related ; its first Kng. 
meannig was dumbfounding amazement 
and terror, from L. cotislcniarc, co)i- 
steniut — , from con, intensiwe -{- sternere, 
to strew; but this in turn may be 
related to the strewn stars. Note that 
(reversing Eng. star, G. Stern) G. 
Starr, stiff, is cognate with the Eng. 
adjective stern, q.v. Cp. consider. 

See discus. 

See garble. 

disciple, discipline. 

A leader or teacher sets down the 
precepts for his disciples'. Pnecept is 
from L. prat tpere, praecept — , to take 
before, to ^ ier, from prae, before + 
capere, cayi — , to take ; cp. manoeuver. 
Those who take away and spread the 
precepts are the disciples, from L. disci- 
pulus, the noun with diminutive ending 
{cp. pupil) from discipere, to take away. 
L. disciplina, from discipulina, instruction 
fo." disciples, gives us discipline. We 
still have the adjective Eng. discipular. 

See accommodate. 

See prestige. 

See calculate. 




See hussar. 

discreet, discrete, discriminate. 
See garble. 

See hussar. 


This flat solid circular piece of 
stone or metal, heaved through the 
air in the ancient Greek games (Gr. 
diskos) has passed its name to various 
objects of similar shape. Directly it 
gives us disk, and through L. discus 
both discus and disc. Via AS. disc, G. 
Tisch, it gives us a goodly dish. 
Through the flat surface of It. desco, 
we have our desk. The Fr. dais gives 
us our Eng. dais. Altogether, quite a 
heave ! 


As with debate, q.v., discuss was a 
violent word, until the coming of the 
Greek tyrants and Roman emperors 
made talk less potent in world affairs. 
It is from L. dis, apart + gua/ere, 
quass, to shake. From its frequentative, 
quassare, to shake to pieces, to shatter, 
comes Eng. quash. 

A soldier puts on a helmet so that, 
though he be shaken, he will not break ; 
hence casque, from It. casco, helmet, 
from L. quassare, to break Tbreak the 
blow). This leads us on several jour- 
neys. From the sense of helmet, cov- 
erinc;, come Port, casca, bark, and Sp. 
cascara, rind, whence Eng. cascara, 
used direct in medicines, as. cascara 
amarr/a (Sp., bitter bark) and cascara 
sagrada (Sp., sacred bark: tlie buck- 
thorn, used as a mild cathartic). A 
doublet oi .casque is cask, a tub. But 
the diminutive casket has another story. 
It is from the old word cask, a chest, 
so used by Shakespeare (II Henry VI, 
III, ii), from Fr. cassette, from L. 
capsa, chest, from capere, to iiold, 
whence Enp. capacity. This cask has 
two other forms, triplets. Case, a re- 
ceptacle, with the verb to encase (a 
case, an event — in cast — is from L. 
cadrre, casu — , to fall; cp. cheat). And 
cash, which at first meant the till, or 
box, where readv money is kept. Hence, 
one in charce of the cash is a cashier. 
But to cashier from the army romes 
directly from Fr. casser, to break, 
from L. quasmre. Note that we also 
use break in both senses. But he that 

lias cash is not likely to be broke. 
{Break, to snap, is from AS. brecan, 
common leut. ; Gael, bragh, a burst ; 
L. fragor, a crash, from frangere, 
fract — , to break, whence fracture, 
fragile, refraction, fraction; irrefrag- 
able, that cannot be broken back ; frag- 
ment, from L. frogmen turn, a piece 
broken off.) Cp. casement. 

Several compounds have this stem : 
concussion '(con, from com, together); 
percussion (per, through) , repercussion 
(througli and back again). Similarly, 
analyze is from Gr. ana, apart, -\- lyrin, 
to loosen. L. quatcre is cognate with 
AS. civacian, to shake ; whence Eng. 
quake and the nickname of the Society 
ol Friends. 

A good discussion ought to end with 
a punch, for in the drink, q.v., things 
are sliaken together, as in the discus.non 
they are shaken apart. 


.S"rr supercilious. 


See ease. Disease first meant simply 
lack of ease, discomfort; but this feel- 
ing is usually caused by a more funda- 
mental condition, to which the meaning 


See diabetes, sext. 


See defeat. (L. dis, away, + in, 


See couch. 


Tills is two words telescoped into one: 
OFr. dis mal, from L. dies mali, un- 
lucky days — also called Egyptian days: 
the term was first used of the Biblical 
story of the Jews' oppression. Chaucer 
says in the dismal, meaning, at an 
unlucky time. 

Telescoping, as a deliberate process 
of word- formation (from the way the 
-segments of a long hand-telescope slide 
into one another: the word is from Gr. 
tele, far + scopein, to look, whence Eng. 
scope) was practiced esp. in the non- 
sense works, e.g. The Jabberivockv, in 
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. 
One of his words that has entered the 
language is chortle, from chuckle tele- 
scoped with snort. A more recent folk 



coinage is brunch, from breakfast and 
lunch. Cp. blimp. 


See cream, mess. 

disparage, disparate, disparity. 

Sec peep. 


This word was in such a' hurry that 
it swallowed another word. There was 
an early Eng. depeach, seen in Fr. as 
depecher. This is from L. depedicare, 
from de, away from, oil,-\- pedicare, 
to trip, from pedica, fetter, from pes, 
ped — , foot. From this source is Eng. 
impede; see baggage. There was an 
early Eng. impeach, meaning to hinder, 
also from this source. 

Combining with, then replacing, this 
group is the term dispatch or despatch, 
from Sp. despachar from It. dispacciare, 
probably from a LL. de, from -\- pactare, 
to tangle, frequentative of pang ere, 
pact—, to fasten (whence Eng. pact, 
etc. See propaganda.) Too often dis' 
patches were tangled in red tape ; see 
red; but to dispatch was to free from 
the tangles; hence, to expedite. And 
from this line of development, to fasten 
upon, (L. im from in, against) the word 
impeach came to have its present mean- 


See aspersion. (L. dis, apart). It was 
emphatic in the cry "Disperse, ye rebels!", 
that foreran the shot heard round the 


See plot. 

See scourge. 


See diabetes. 

See semi — . 

dissent, dissention. 

See ascend. 


5"^^ sock. 

dissolution, dissolve. 

See absolute. 



When we speak of persons as related 
"on the distaff side," we mean of 
course, through the mothers : the 
women's side of the house. Distaff is 
from AS. distaef, from difsse, bunch 
of flax + staef, staff. The Eng. prefix 
be — is often used to denote the act 
of : besmirch; belittle. Thus to bedizen 
was originally to put the flax (diesse) 
on the staff; hence, to decorate pro- 

Staff is ultimately from Sansk, stha, 
stand; see tank. Its plural, staves, has 
given us another singular, stave; we 
stave in the staves of a barrel; we 
stave off an attack, with a staff. 
Erected as the sign of office, the staff 
was transferred from the sign to the 
officers, the general's staff. 


See tank. 


See tattoo. 


See instil. 


Attendance at chapel„ in English col- 
leges, is marked by the prick of a pin 
next the name of each man as he 
enters. The habit seems to be an old 
one. Thus distinct means pricked 
apart ; extinct, pricked out; and instinct, 
pricked in : L. instinguere, instinct — , 
etc., from Gr. stichein; cp. attack. The 
first two also have forms from the 
present tense of the L. verb: dis- 
tinguish; extinguish; the last has in- 
stead the form from L. instigate^ in- 
stigat — ^ to prick on, instigate. 


See torch. 


If you need something to draw you 
away from your daily concerns and 
worries, you'll find it in distraction, for 
this is from L. dis, away -|- trahere, 
tract — , to draw. (It is cognate with 
the common Teut. word, AS, dragon, 
G. tragen, to draw. Note that a 
drawn game is one in which the stakes 
are withdrawn^ as there is no decision; 
also, our drawingroom q.v. has nothing 
to do with artists, but is a withdrawing- 
room.) Extract is to draw out— as every 
boy learns from the dentist. And con- 



tract is to draw together, either thus 
growing smaller or thus coming to an 
understanding. To detract is to draw 
down, away (usually to draw credit of 
praise away). Subtract is to draw 
under, away from. A tract of ground 
(stretched out) is thus drawn ; but a 
tract that is written is short for trac' 
tate, from L. tractare, tractat — , to 
handle, frequentative of trahere, tract — . 
And a tractor is that which draws 
things along. Cp. attract. 

The almost wholly forgotten literal 
sense of retract (to draw back, hence to 
withdraw one's words) has come into 
use again : as they rise, airplanes retract 
their landing wheels. 


See prestige ; plot. 


See prestige. 


See tribulation. 


See prestige. 

See butter ; trouble. 


See abuse. 


See dawdle. 


See verdict. 


See jury. 


See turtle. 

diverge, divers, diverse, diversified, 
diversion, divert, divertissement. 

See conversion. 


See improvised. 


5"^^ witchhazel. 

See improvised. 



This was originally one that made 
others' heads spin, being AS. dysig, 
foolish, akin to giddy; see enthusiastn. 
Like these words, it may first have meant, 
possessed by a god : Aryan dhwes — , Gr. 
theos, god. Your own head spins directly 
in vertigo, for which see conversion. 


See dome. 

See donkey. 


See doctor. 


L. docere, doct — , meant to lead, to 
teach; hence (from the adjective L. 
docilis, easily led) Eng. docile. That 
which is taught is a doctrine, and in- 
doctrituition is a form of teaching oppos- 
ed to education; cp. destroy. (For in- 
duction, see duke.) 

The term L. doctor, learned, was used 
in the medieval universities as the title 
for their degrees ; we still use it thus, 
esp. for M.D. (doctor of medicine) and 
D.D.S. (doctor of dental surgery). There 
are many more. 

The physician draws his name from Gr. 
physike, knowledge of nature, from phy- 
sis, nature, from phyein, to bring forth, 
cognate with Eng. be; cp. onion. The 
ending is — ian, one skilled in, after a 
word ending — ica : mathematician; poli- 
tician (and other words by analogy). 

Eng. medicine is from L. medicine, 
from medicus, healer, from mederi, to 
heal. The It. word for doctor is medico. 


See doctor. 


See dawdle. 


See chichevache. 

dog, doggerel 

See greyhound. 

"Git along, little dogie!" refers not^to 
a little dog (doggie) but to a stray 
(hence imdernourished) calf. Their dis- 
tended bellfes look like "a batch of sour- 
dough in a sack" ; hence they were called 
dough-bellies or dough-guts, then dogies. 
The cowboy song is bringing the stray 
back to the herd. 





This word for an opinion firmly but 
baselessly held was more modest in its 
start. It is from Gr. dogma, dogmat — , 
what seems, from dokein, to seem. But 
so many persons have said "It seems to 
me" and as they continued have develop- 
ed a positive tone and an assurance of 
certainty, that the Devil's Dictionary 
(Ambrose Bierce, 1906, 1911) is a whole- 
some remembrancer : positive — rrtistaken 
at the top of one's voice. One must keep 
in mind that things are not what they 
seem. Beware of the dogmatic man. A 
variant of Gr. dogma is Gr. doxa, opin- 
ion, also from dokein ; the emphasis given 
to one's opinion made the word also 
mean glory, as in doxology, speaking 
glory to the Lord ; cp. paradox. 

See Appendix II. 


This is two words that chime as one. 
There is OE. dal, a variant of OE. dael, 
which gives us deal. It first meant (as 
deal still does) to portion out; hence, 
what is dealt out to one in life, one's lot. 
The second sense died out as the other 
word grew strong: dole from L. dolor, 
grief; cp. indolent. And with the sense 
of sorrow or lamenting, the word took on 
again its sense of dealing out, but now 
esp. as charity to the needy — and also, 
from the nature of such charity, to dole 
out came to mean to give in tiny portions, 
niggardily. But a doleful person is not 
necessarily on the dole. 


See dole ; indolent. 

See lent. 


About 1518, coins were minted from 
silver of Joachimsthal (Joachim's val- 
ley; G. Thai, whence Eng. dale); these 
were called J oachimsthaler — being coined 
by the counts of Schlick, they were 
sometimes referred to as Schlicken- 
thaler; just as the frankfurter is the 
sausage (G. Wurst, sausage: Wiener- 
wurst, from Wien, Vienna) from 
Frankfort. Similarly hamburger is the 
style of meat from Hamburg; it has 
no connection with ham, although beef- 
burger and cheeseburger have appeared 
at "hot dog" stands. Hot dog, of 
course, is from the (I trust jocularly) 

supposed origin of the meat ; in Eng. 
slang, a sausage is a "mystery bag." 
Both names of the coin were shortened 
into Thaler; whence Eng. (U.S.) dollar. 
A cent (L. centum, hundred) is one 
hundredth of a dollar; as a mill (L. 
mille, thousand) is one thousandth. Cp. 

A pound is first a weight, from AS. 
pund, from L. pondo, pound, literally, 
by weight, from pondus, weight, from 
pendere, to weigh, to hang. Shilling 
(one-twentieth of a pound) has a dou- 
ble diminutive ending: from AS. scyl- 
ling, from Teut. skil, divide + — / — 
— ing : as in darling, duckling, etc. ; cp. 
gossip: a little little dividing, being a 
thin slice of the metal of a pound. 
There is an earlier Eng. verb skill, to 
divide; then, to make a difference: 
"What skills it ?" ; thence, to under- 
stand, to know how : this sense sur- 
vives in the noun skill. Penny, pence 
(one-twelfth of a shilling) is from ME. 
peni, plural penies and pens, from AS. 
peninq, from pending (which occurs in 
835 A.D.) ; again the diminutive — ing 
-\- pand, pledge, a pawn, from L. pan- 
num, cloth; cp. pane. Farthing (one- 
fourth of a penny) similarly means a 
little fourth. 

Franc is from the name of the people, 
the French, Franks — which itself is 
from OHG franko, from LL. francus, 
free, q.v. The city of Frankfort is 
the Frank ford (as in the Aryan root 
per, through, whence Teut. far, fur, to 
go; whence Eng. to fare and G. Fahrt, 
a journey. Fare first meant the goin.c;, 
as in thoroughfare, going throiitih; 
then the rate of pay for the trip) : 
Frank f or t-am-Main, the Frank ford on 
the Main River; or else the sallying 
(forth) place of the Franks: OE. 
forth, whence also fore: forth is also 
an obsolete form of ford; cp. Bo.k- 
phorus. Hamburg is the home fort: 
OE. ham, OHG. haim, home (commo;i 
Teut. also in Hampstead, Hempstead, 
Oakham. There is ^n obsolete diminu- 
tive hainel, from which survives the 
double diminutive hamlet) + OHG. 
Burg, fortress, walled tov/n. Fin' festc 
Bu'-g ist un.<:cr Gott, begins Lutlier's 
great hvmn, \ mighty fortress is our 
Lord, the term burg is used coiloiiui- 
ally for city; but note that burgh 
(from OE. bnrh) is a variant of 
tordJt.r?/!— somewhat as through and 
thorough are . iants ; even in OE., 
thurh with the variant thuruh. Hence 
burgomaster (Englished from the Dii. 



burgemeester) ; burgrave, from Burg 
-f G. Graf, count. A burglar, q.v., is 
a city thief. It is not, however, burg 
-\- lar from It. larrone, from L. /ar- 
ron — , thief ; as the earlier forms are 
burglator and burgulator. These are 
Anglo-Latin formations, influenced by 
L. ferre, lat—, to carry (off), from 
the early Eng. burg-breche, town 
breacher — hence, still, our breach of the 
peace, which is one of the offences of 
the burglar. To burgle is a back-forma- 
tion, at first intended humorously, from 
burglar, as in the policemen's song in 
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of 

VVien, Vienna, medieval Vindobono, 
is from L. ventus bonus, good wind — 
which perhaps indicates how early the 
city was known for its gay waltzes and 
spirited airs. But this leads us to one 
of the most complicated groups in the 
language. For L. ventus, the wind, is 
ultimately from the past participle of 
L. venire, vent — , to come ; see also 
prevent. And Eng. to give vent to 
one's feelings follows this path {vent, 
^ir), but with other shadings. It is 
influenced also by vent via Fr. ventre, 
from L. venter, belly, paunch, womb 
(hence likewise related to vent — , 
come) ; whence ventose, ventral; ventril- 
oquist; cp. necromancy. It is interest- 
ing to note the first method of ventila- 
tion, shown by the early meaning of 
the word: L. ventilare, ventilat — , to 
swing, to fan. OFr. esventcr, from L. 
ex + venter, whence Fr. eventer, com- 
bines the two trails : out of the womb ; 
and ex -j- venire, vent — to come, the 
event is the outcome. But there is also 
Eng. vent, a sale, from L. vtndire, 
vendit — , via Sp. venta, sale. Venture 
is aphetic for adventure, from L. ad -j- 
venire, vent — , to come to (one), to 
happen. There is finally (linking its 
meaning with the first vent, above) 
vent, also fent, from Fr. fendre, from 
L. findere, fiss — , to cleave ; whence 
Eng. fissure; cp. finance. Which brings 
us again toward the almighty dollar! 

dolor, dolorous. 

See indolent. 

See dauphin. 

Dom, domain. 
See dome. 



This word comes from such a 
mingling of two trails that it is im- 
possible to separate the footsteps. The 
combination is most clearly seen in the 
Eng. Domesday Book, where the mean- 
ing is the Book of the Day of Doom. 
There are two Gr. words: themis, 
that which is set up, stem the, and dema, 
house-top, also domos, whence L. doiniis, 
house. The house most frequently re- 
ferred to, for centuries, was the domus 
Dei (house of the Lord), which was 
often called just domus; its most out- 
standing feature came to be called the 
dome. From domus comes the L. doiii- 
inus, master of the house, therefore the 
Lord. There is a lengthy list of words 
derived from this dual origin : domain 
(also, from Fr., demesne) ; Dom or 
Don as a Sp. or Port, title, originally 
applied to the Benedictines ; througli the 
LL., domestic, domesticate; domicile; 
the group of words implying acting like 
a lord : dominant, dominate, domineer; 
dominical; dominie (mainly Scottish), 
a teacher, a don; dominion. From the 
power (and the tower) of the lord, 
comes (LL. domnionem, a dominating 
tower, whence Fr. donjon) donjon, 
dungeon, at first a dungeon vault, or 
vault of the tower. 

Doniino, a hooded cloak worn by the 
servants of the Lord (priests), came 
to refer to a mask over the upper 
part of the face, which the hood might 
hide. (Thus to hoodwink is to cover 
the eyes with a hood or the like ; to 
blindfold? to fool.) From the Fr. ex- 
pression "Faire domino," to make or 
put on the hood or cap, said when the 
last piece was set down, winning, dom- 
ino came to be the name of a game. 

Doom is a word of long Teutonic 
use, from don, to place, set — the verb 
do -\- the abstract ending — moc, OE. 
— m, as G. — tum. (This is a noun 
ending in Eng. words, such as kingdom, 
wisdom; by my halidom — OE. hdlig, 
holy.) Do itself, OE. don, is one of 
the most persistent of Aryan stems, 
appearing in Sansk. dha; OPers. da; 
Gr. the; L. — dere in 3d declension 
verbs : condere, dedere, etc. 

Domesday Book, domestic, 
domesticate, domicile, dominsmt, 
dominate, domineer, dominie. 

See dome. 

See dangerous; cp. dome. 




domino, don. 

See dome. 


See anecdote. 


This is a rather recent word (late 18th 
c.) for what was explained as a "Dicky, 
or an ass". The word is probably from 
a proper noun, Duncan; as the name for 
a patient or old horse, Dobbin (which did 
not prow quite so general) is a form of 
Robin, Robert. Dicky-bird and Jenny 
wren, we use such names again and again. 

Another variant of Robin, Rob, was 
Hobin, Hob. Hob was used as the com- 
mon name for a clown ; as Robin Good- 
fellow and hobgoblin, it was applied to a 
mischievous imp or a bogy; cp. insect. 
As hob, diminutive hobby, it was applied 
to a horse. A hobby-horse is a toy horse 
on which one rides and rides without get- 
ting anywhere ; hence the use of hobby 
for an occupation engaged in just be- 
cause one is having a good time. 

See buck. 

See deem, dome. 


This word, in the sense of gate also, is 
widespread : OHG. tor; Sansk. dwar; Gr. 
thera; L. fores. From the Gr. therapeu- 
tikos, from therapenein, to attend, from 
theraps. therat — , doorman, attendant, 
comes Eng. therapeutic. From the L. 
{fors, outside the door) come Eng. 
foreign and forest. The ending in foreign 
IS by false analogy with reign; the word 
is from ME. foreine, from OFr. forain, 
from L. for as, from fors; in Eng. too 
it first meant out of doors ; then outside, 
hence excluded (from court) ; hence, 
alien. Forest is short for LL. for est em 
silvam, the woods outside ; i.e., not fenced 
in. L. fors came to be Fr. hors, which 
comes into Eng. in two expressions : hors 
de combat, out of the fight, disabled; and 
hors d'oeuvre, out of the ordinary course, 
then esp. food as a first or extra course 
at a meal. 

As early as the 14th c. men were using 
the expression "dead as a doornail". 


As a girl's name, Dora might be short 
for Gr. Theodora, gift of God; or just 
Fr. d'or, golden. It was quite otherwise, 
however, when England declared War in 
August, 1914; being at once the name of 

the Defence of the Realm /ic/— drawn 
from its initials. 

Initials have recently been a favorite 
way of referring to parties, bureaus, and 
other creations of human officialdom ; 
when they can be formed into words, 
they have a chance of entering the lang- 
uage. Thus Waac, from Women's Auxil- 
iary Army Corps, in the United States, 
1942 ; the first A was dropped when the 
Corps became a regular part of the Army. 
This word was helped along by its re- 
semblance to whack, a blow (imitative of 
the sound) and whacky (from Yorkshire 
dialect), a fool. The men in service 
(1943---4) have a favorite in snafu, 
spread by the film shorts in the Army- 
Navy Screen Magazine relating the mis- 
adventures of Private Snafu — whose name 
spells (in polite parlance) "situation nor- 
mal, all fouled up." Flak is from the first 
letters of the component parts of G. 
Fliegerabwehrkanone , aircraft defence 
cannon (fire). 

Syllables are also used in forming 
names, as Nazi (G. Nationalsozialistiche) 
and trade names like Nabisco (National 
Biscuit Company) and Socony (Standard 
Oil Company of New York : initials and 
syllable). And of course many existing 
words have been combined to create new 
ones, e.g., killjoy, happy-go-lucky, dare- 
devil, windbag, sobstuff, close-up, black- 
out, airplane, loudspeaker, sawbones, jaw- 
breaker, makeshift, windbreaker, icebox, 
bathtub, skyscraper — their new meaning 
easily seen. 

dormant, dormer, dormitory. 
See dormouse. 


The L. dormire, dormit — , to sleep, 
characterizes this creature, the sleepy- 
mouse. Mouse is common Aryan, AS. 
mus; L. mus, mur — ; Sansk, mus; cp. 
muscle. L. dormitorium, a place for sleep- 
ing, gives us Eng. dormitory; the window 
in such a room is a dormer window. Via 
Fr. dormir, to sleep, present participle 
dormant, comes Eng. dormant, like many 

See tergiversation. 


When you swallow it, it's a dose; 
when doctors study it, it's posology. 
From the patient's point of view : 
dose, from (jr. dosis, from didonai, to 
give — and you have to take. From 
the physician's: posology, from Gr. 
posos, how much? 



dotage, dotard. 

See dote. 


To dote on someone, or to be in one's 
dotage, may not be basically the same ; 
but they show the same symptoms, and 
are named from their appearance. OE. 
doten, dotien, meant to be silly; but MEHi. 
dotcn (as MHG. tot:;eri, to take a nap) 
meant to behave as though half asleep. 
This would apply to an old dotard, where- 
as a young lover might just seem in a 

Speaking of old lovers, when the Sher- 
iff in De Koven's Robin Hood says "I 
dote on you," Annabel cries "Give me an 
antidote!" An antidote is precisely 
something given against, L. anti, against 
-f- Gr. doton from didonai, to give ; cp. 
anecdote and dose. 

double, doubt. 

5"^^ diploma. 


See lady. (The use of dough to mean 
money comes from the fact that it's 
what every woman kneads.) 


Boy is not AS., but common Teut. : 
Du. boef, knave ; a proper name in 
OHG. Buobo. For dough, see lady. The 
application of the term doughboy to 
soldiers seems directly from the pipe- 
clay used to whiten "uniforms, which 
became soggy in the rain. But it is 
also suggested that the name came 
from the shape of the large brass but- 
tons, which resembled the good old 
dumplings called doughboys. 

Another story has it that the word was 
first applied to the Light Division of the 
British regulars in the Peninsular War 
(in Spain under Wellington, 1812), be- 
cause the soldiers themselves ground their 
wheat into flour. 


See turtle. 

5"^^ away. 


See dogma. 


See paradox. 



See dragoon. 


This word marks a transfer from the 
instrument to the operator. It is from 
Eng. dragon, from L. draco, dracoii — , 
the fabulous monster ; the word was ap- 
plied to an early musket, from its belch- 
ing fire ; then to the soldier that fired it. 
The monster was earlier Gr. drakon. from 
drakcin, to see — and it must have been 
a sight for St. George to behold ! 


See rat. 


See distraction. 


This stately reminder of more formal 
days was the withdrawing room — 
shortened to '"thdrawingroom . . . the 
drazvingroom — to which the women re- 
tired after dinner, while the men re- 
mained for some purely male conver- 
sation — politics and such. At a given 
point in every "drawingroom comedy" 
one gentleman puts aside his cigar and 
asks. "Shall we join the ladies?" Cp. 


There is an OE. dream, meaning mirth 
and minstrelsy, which died in the 14th c. 
About the same time came into use an- 
other dream, related to OHG. traum, 
probably to Teut. draugm — , to deceive, 
whence ON. draugr, ghost : this is the 
one that still visits many folk by night, 
not to mention the vast if inactive army 
of those that have daydreams. 


This word has weakened down the 
years. It is the adjective from OE. drcor, 
gore, dripping blood. Its first meaning 
was bloody ; thence, horrid ; by further 
weakening it came to its present dull 

See drink. 


See drivel. 


See drive. 


See nostril, cloth. 




This is a common Teut. word : AS. 
drittcan. It all depends on wliat you 
choose. Water seems equally wide- 
spread:- AS. waeter; Du. tvatcr; G. 
Wasscr; OSlav. voda. But li'hie is not 
only common Teut., AS. ivin, but also 
L. vinum, both wine and grape. From 
vinnni -\- doiiere, remove, from dc, from 
-\-emere, enjptwn, take, (whence Eng. 
preempt, take first, cp. quaint) came 
L. vindeDiia, whence Fr. vcndange, 
whence Eng. vcndage, vintage. If the 
wine turns sharp or sour, (from F"r. 
aigre, from L. accr, acr — , whence Eng. 
acid, acrid, acrimonious) it is vinegar. 
Ale and beer (cp. barley) are com- 
mon Teut. words; mead, earlier mcth. 
ranges through Teut., Goth, midjcs, from 
Gr. viethy, wine, from Sansk. ntadhu, 
honey. Also hydromel, from Gr. hydro, 
water -\- meli, honey. (Welsh mead is 
metheglin, from meddyglyn, medecine, 
from meddyg, healing, from L. medi- 
cus -f- llyn, liquor. 

Benedictine (cp. benedick) is the 
drink prepared by the monks of the 
order of 5"/. Benedict; as chartreuse 
is, by the monks of La Grande Chart- 
reuse, Carthusian monastery near Gren- 
oble. Brandy is short for branden'ine, 
from Du. brandeivijn, burnt wine. 
ChiU'ipagnc is from the province in 
France; cp. camp. Chianti is from a 
district in Tuscany. A cordial is a 
heartening drink, from L. cordialis, 
from cor, cord — , heart. Gin is short 
for geneva, from Fr. genievre, from L. 
juniperus, whence juniper, the berries of 
which flavor it. Julep is from Arab. 
julab, from Pars, gulab, rose water. 
Punch is from Hind, panch, five: al- 
cohol, water, lemon, sugar, spice. For 
I'rrmouth, see wormwood. Rum is short 
for rumbullion — which is a long story. 
The bullion is from Fr. bouillon, a hot 
drink, from L. bullire, v.lcrce Fr. 
bouiller. whence to boil. (The boil is 
OE. byl, from bul, blown up.) The word 
rum is borrowed from slang, from two 
sources. Romany (gypsy) rom means 
man ; thence, odd fellow, as in "He's 
a rum 'un." But Rome was used as an 
adjective meaning fine, excellent (as 
a lady may exclaim "That's a Paris 
gown !" — even if made in Nipeekesau- 
kee.) ; thus G. Ruhm, fame. (This is 
related to rumor, from the imitation of 
the sound of murmuring; but perhaps 
the name of the city itself is similarly 
derived.) Eric Partridge's Dictionary 
of Slang, 1938, gives five columns of 


words beginning with rum, mainly in 

the sense of good. Thus nimbullion, 
a good hot drink, whence riini. Sack 
is not from the drinks, e.g. -Hippocras, 
tliat were strained through a sack, 
(from AS. sacc, from L. saccas, from 
Gr. sakkos, from Heb. saq; sack, to 
plunder, is from putting tlie booty in 
a sack) but from Sp. Xeres seco, dry 
sherry, whence Fr. vin sec, dry (not 
sweet) wine, whence Eng. sack. 

Seltzer is from G. selterser, from 
ScUcrs. ;i village with a mineral sprinij. 
Sherbet is from Arab, sharbat, a drink, 
Mi'-'ar nt'.il water, from shariba, to 
drink ; sorbet is a doublet ; from the 
same source via L. siriipus, whence Fr. 
sirop, whence comes Eng. syrup. Sherry 
is older sherris, from Sp. vino de 
Xeres, from Caesaris (Urbs Caesaris, 
the city of Caesar), now Jeres. Soda 
is short for soda water, from L. soda: 
water + sodium l)icarbonate ; now more 
often carbon dioxide. L. soda is from 
Arab, suda, headache, which it sought 
to cure. Hot toddy is from earlier 
tarrie, from Hind, tari, from tar, a 
kind of palm. Whiskey is short for 
Celt, usquebaugh, water. Also from 
water are L. aqua vitae, water of life, 
the alchemists' term for alcohol ; Fr. 
eau-de-vie, water of life, brandy; and 
Russ. vodka, diminutive of voda, water. 
From Gr. dipsa, thirst -f- mania, mad- 
ness, comes dipsomania. And some per- 
sons need not be bitten by a mad dog 
to get hydrophobia [Gr. hydro, water 
(wlience Eng. hydra, watersnake ; hy- 
drant; hydraulic: Gr. aulas, pipe; 
hydrogen, water - producing) + phobia, 
hatred] . 

Coffee is from Turk, gahreh, from 
Arab, gahwah, more basically, however, 
from Caffa, Ethiopia, where it still 
grows wild. Tea (earlier pronounced 
tay) is from mandarin Chin, ch'a, 
whence Arab, shay, Pers. chd, Russ. 
chai, Port. cha. The Eng. form comes 
from Du. thee, from Malay teh, from 
the Amoy Chin, dialect t'e. It's a long 
time between drinks. Cp. intoxicate. 

By now you are probably drenched. 
The casual of drink, OTeut. form drank- 
jan, gives us Eng. drench. 


Drop, drip, and droop are various stems 
of the same echoic widespreading Teut. 
root ; cp. drivel. Dropsy has no connec- 
tion, save that there is water involved: it 
is aphetic for hydropsy, from Gr. hydrops, 




from hydor, hydr — , water — as also in 
hydraulic; cp. drink. 

The clepsydra was the ancient water- 
clock {cp. dial), from Gr. kleps — , from 
kleptciu, to steal (whence also Eng. klep- 
tomaniac; cp. mania), -f- hydor, water, as 
the water and the moments stole away. 

Also echoic in origin was the L. word 
for drop, L. gutta (still used in doctors' 
prescriptions). This, via OFr. goute, 
came into Eng. as gout; Shakespeare 
speaks of gouts of blood. From the me- 
dieval belief that the disease was caused 
by the dripping away of body humors, 
comes the wealthy man's ailment, gout. 

Gutta-percha is of quite different origin 
(though the sap falls in drops) : it is 
from Malay getah pcrcha, gum of the 
pcrclia tree. 


This word is widespread, but found 
only in the Teut. tongues, OE. drifan. 
And that which is driien is the drift, 
whether it be a snow drift, or the drift 
(direction of the drive) of one's argu- 


Just as there is no relation between 
shrivel and shrive (q.v.), so there is none 
between drivel and drive. Drivel is earlier 
drevel, from .^.S. dreflian, to slobber, 
hence, to utter meaningless sound. It is 
a variant of dribble, frequentative of early 
Eng. drib, an echoic word akin to drip 
(q.v.) ; drop. 

Shovel, however, is related to shove, 
a common Teut. word, AS. scufan, to 
thrust. From this also came early Eng. 
scuff, to brush with the hand, or to drag 
the feet : whence the frequentative Eng. 
scuffle; also shuffle. The early game 
sho7'e-board was later shovel-board and 
is now shuffle-board. To shuffle cards 
is to keep pushing them back and forth. 


This was originally just a swift 
camel, from LL. dromedarius camelus, 
from Gr. dromas, dromod — , nmner, 
from drnmein, to run. Thus a hippo- 
drome is a place for horse racing, 
from hippos, horse ; hippopotamus is a 
water horse, from potamos, river ; cp. 
pot; into.xicate. A palindrome is an 
expression that runs both ways, from 
Gr. palin, again : e.g., Madam I'm Adam ! 
And a parchment used again is a 
palimpsest, from Gr. palimpsostos, from 
palin -\- pson, to smooth. 

droop, drop, dropsy. 

Sec drip. 

See philander. 

See pay. 

See coward. 

ducat, duchess, duchy. 
See duke. 


See ducking-stool. 


Scolds and other feminine offenders 
were in the 17th and 18th c. set in 
a stool, swung on a long pole (such 
as was used for drawing water from 
wells) and publicly shamed and ducked. 
Hence the name, by change from earlier 
cucking-stool, from the type of chair 
used, a close-stool, or toilet-seat, Teut. 
(ON.) kuka, L. cacare, to void ex- 
crement. They should have been 
ashamed ! 

Other suggested origins of the word, 
and the history of the custom, are traced 
in Juridical Folklore, by J. W. Spargo, 
1944. Noting that the punishment of the 
cucking-stool is almost exclusively for 
female offenders, the book reminds us that 
three of the seven deadly sins (idolatry, 
blasphemy, false witness) are sins of the 
tongue. The Epistle of St. James, III, 6, 
says "the tongue is a fire" — hence put out 
the fire, check the sins of the tongue, by 

The bird, duck, is from AS. dure, diver, 
from the verb form ducan, to dive, to 
duck. The doth duck is found in Du. 
doek, linen ; G. TUch, cloth. 

See gossip. 

duct, ductless. 
See duke. 


This, referring to a fellow all dressed 
up with no place to go — at least, no 
good reason for going ... or being — 
is from G. duden-kop, drowsy head, 
from dudden, whence Eng. dawdle. 
Hence the appropriateness of the dude- 



See cloth. 

Set son. 


Tliis noble was the leader of a 
troop, from L. du.v, due — , leader, from 
duccre, duct—, to lead. The slang use 
of diikfs to mean fists is said to come 
from 19th c. rhyminp slanp; : Duke of 
Voiks was used for forks, hence 
dulccs were the hands tliat held them. 
It is more likely, however, that tlie 
word grew around the prize-ring, the 
battlers leading with their fists, hence 

Many Eng. words have come from 
L. duct — , Conductor (L. con, from 
com, together) ; viaduct (L. via, road) ; 
aqueduct (L. aqua, water, whence 
aquarium, aquatic); induction (L. in, 
in) ; deduction (L. de, from) ; reduc- 
tion (L. re, back) ; production (L. pro, 
forth) ; abduction (L. ab, away) ; in- 
troduction (L. intra, into, within) ; the 
ducts and the ductless glands. 

Cognate are Eng. tow, from AS. togian, 
to draw ; tie, from AS. tigan, ON. taug, 
rope; tug, from ME. toggen, AS. teon, 
to pull, whence also ME. toght, Eng. 

The duchess, who began as the wife 
of the duke, forms her name from LL. 
ducissa, from due -\- the feminine end- 
ing. Similarly ducky is from LL. duca- 
tus, whence It. dueato; Fr. duche, 
wiicnce Eng. duchy. The Italian coin 
important to Antonio in The Merchant 
of Venice was first minted (in 1140) 
by Roger II of Sicily, in his dueato of 
Apulia; hence, ducat. Shylock learned 
that a man who has a bad debt some- 
times can duck it. 

dum-dum (bullet). 

See Appendix II. 


Persons knowing that this word means 
incapable of articulate speech often as- 
sume that its use to mean stupid is col- 
loquial ; as a matter of fact, stupid was 
the earlier meaning of the word. A per- 
son that does not .understand, does not 
know what to do, is likely to remain still 
and silent ; hence the frequent exclama- 
tion of an impatient person : "Are you 
deaf!" "Have you lost your tongue?" 
And from stupid dumb came to mean 


speechless ; even, occasionally (as in 
OHG.), deaf. 

.'\ dumb show (an Elizabethan stage 
term) is a pantomime. A dumbwaiter is 
a service (elevator) that — being mechan- 
ical — does not bother one with talk. 
Dumb-bells were originally the apparatus 
for ringing church bells, without the 
sound ; they were used either in learning 
how to chime, or for exercise — hence, the 
later form of exercising dumb-bell. (The 
dutnb belle is quite other, as every swain 
will know.) To dumbfound is to strike 
dumb {-found, from Fr. -fondre, from L. 
fundere, fus- to melt, to pour ; whence 
also — con, together — Eng. confound and 
confusion). And the silent partner (im- 
aginary player) in a card game is a 
dumby, now always dummy, like the sil- 
ent partner of the ventriloquist. 

dumb-bell, dumbfound, dumbwaiter, 

Sec dumb. 


See plunge. From the sound, the word 
moved to the action, to throw down heav- 
ily ; hence also the town dump. 

In the dumps is a different word, re- 
lated to the Du. damp, haze ; G. dumpf, 
close, oppressive, gloomy; cp. wet blan- 
ket. Don't let your spirits be dampened. 


"A fool unless he knows Latin is 
never a great fool." This Spanish say- 
ing indicates the scorn that came with 
the Renaissance, for the medieval hair- 
splitting; and all of it s6emed to de- 
scend upon the bowed head of John 
Duns Scotus. d. 1308. (His name is 
a place name ; either from Dunse in 
Berwickshire or from Dunston in 
Northumberland; in either case, it is 
now the name for a plain dunce.) 
It was the disciples of his rival Thomas 
Aquinas, d. 1274, that popularized the 
term. Aquinas was called by his school- 
mates "The dumb ox." Cp. can-can. 


See Appendix II. 


See away. 


The clothes are named from the mate- 
rial. Hind, dungri, coarse calico. 


See dome. 




See pylorus. 

dupe, duplex, duplicate, duplicity. 

See diploma. 


See suffer. 


See February. 


This word, once extended to all Ger- 
many (as still in Du. duitsch and G. 
deutsch), is now limited to the Nether- 
lands. It is from OHG diutisc, popu- 
lar, national. But just as Slav, which 
to the natives meant glory, became 
debased abroad into slave, so the popu- 
lar Dutch at home were less liked 
across the Channel. The English didn't 
like the broom on the Dutch mast- 
heads of the 16th and 17th c, in- 
dicating that these vessels "sweep the- 
seas," and even after Britannia began 
to rule the waves, the Dutch were their 
chief colonial rivals. Thus — just as the 
English had earlier called venereal dis- 
eases the French sickness and the 
French called them the Italian malady 
— a score of scorn was turned upon 
the Dutch. Some of this survives : A 
Dutch auction is one in which the 
auctioneer give": a high figure, then 
gradually lowers it until someone buys. 
A Dutch anchor is something important 
that has been left behind, from a story 
of a Dutch captain that forgot his anchor 
and thus lost his ship. Dutchman's 
breeches is a small patch of blue ( "enough 
to make a pair of breeches for a Dutch- 
man") in a stormy sky. 

A Dutch bargain is one clinched over 
liquor. Dutch comfort : Thank God it 
was no worse ! Dutch concert : each 
plays a different tune. Dutch courage : 
induced by liquor (Holland gin?). 
Dutch defence : really a surrender. 
Dutch feast ; whereat the host gets 
drunk before his guests. Dutch gold : 
an alloy of copper and zinc, for a 
cheap imitation of gold leaf. Dutch 
luck : undeserved good fortune. Dutch 
nightingale : a frog. Dutch praise : 
seeming praise that condemns. Dutch 
reckoning : a lump account, usually 
higher than if itemized. Dutch treat : 
each pays for himself. To talk like a 
Dutch uncle is not to mince words; 
usually to scold roundly. A Dutch wife 
is a pillow, esp. in the tropic colonies. 


of a man that takes no native woman. 
"If that's the truth, I'm a Dutchnan" : 
I'm damned — we might say : My name 
is mud. Double Dutch is what we call 
"double talk," gibberish. I'd better stop 
or I'll be in Dutch . . . Among the 
Cornish miners of Montana, U.S..^., 
an assessment (paying out instead of 
taking in) is called an Irish dividend. 
(Ireland is just an old Celtic name — 
no connection with ire, the angry isle!) 

This xenophobia (Gr. xeno, stranger 
+ phobos, fear) is found in many lands, 
and districts : townsman vs. gownsman ; 
city vs. country ; cp. pagan. Thus to 
the Romans the land of Carthage, 
Punica, was caught in the term Punica 
fides, Punic faith, treachery. What the 
English call taking "French leave" is 
to the French "filer a I'Anglaise" : tRe 
compliment returned! The vandal is 
from the sacking of Rome, 445 A.D., 
by Genseric, king of the Vandals. AS. 
wealh, foreigner (not a Saxon) was 
the term given to the earlier inhabi- 
tants: IVaelisc, the IVelsh; whence, to 
li'elsh on a deal. (IValnut is the for- 
eign, or Welsh, nut, from AS. wcalh- 
hnutu.) And today, to the man of 
Manhattan (New York) "art is the 
quickest way out of the Bronx ;" and 
the pppht of derision is called the 
Bronx cheer. The attitude is summed 
up in the old story of the two cockney 
urchins : 

"Who's that?" 


" 'Eave 'arf a brick at 'im!" 


This pleasant and now mainly poetical 
word has a grimmer history. Its first 
meaning was to sttm, to make giddy, 
hence to mislead ; as in Sansk. dhvt/r, to 
mislead. In OHG. it had reached the 
second stage : if you stun someone, you 
perforce delay him : OHG. twellan, to 
retard. Used also as an intransitive verb, 
it came thus to mean to delay, to linger; 
hence, to abide, to dwell in a place. 


See sequin. 


See dynamo. 


This is a recent coinage, from Gr. 
dynamis, power, force, from dynasthai, 
to be able ; hence Gr. dynastes, ruler, and 
Eng. dynasty. From this source we have 


dynasty dysprosium 

a large number of recent words, from evangelist) ; past dyspepsia (Gr. dyspep- 

dynamic and dynamism to dyne, the unit sia, indigestion, from peps-, pept-; peptos, 

of force, and the combining form dyna- cooked, digested; peptikos able to digest; 

mO'. whence also pepsin and the peptic juices). 

The bowels or "inners' were Gr. entera; 

dynasty. hence an affliction there was Gr. dysen- 

i"ff dynamo. teria, Eng. dysentery. 

dysentery. dvsnensia 

The Gr. dys-, meaning bad, dl (the op- ^^IP^Sy^'^^'ntery. 
posite of eu-, good : eulogistic means 
speaking well of something; dyslogistic, 

speaking ill), is a frequent prefix, from dysprosium. 

dysangelical (opposite of evangelical; cp. See element. 




See acumen. 

If you don't know the answer, some- 
one may call you a goose; he might have 
called you anserine, which means stupid 
(L. anser, goose), from the stupid notion 
that a goose is. An anserate cross, how- 
ever, is quite another matter, being one 
with a bird or snake head at the ex- 
tremities. This is from a LL. variant of 
L. ansat-, with handles, as in the crux 
ansata, more widely known as the swas- 
tika, cp. monk. But L. ansatus is used of 
a man with arms akimbo — a man 
"handled", as it were ; certainly not one 
handling anything ; and from this inac- 
tivity came a LL. form asia; whence Fr. 
aise, elbow-room ; whence Eng. ease. 

See answer. Goose, AS. gas, is com- 
mon Aryan. The tailor's goose is named 
from the shape of its handle, like a 
goose's neck ; whence the saying : Be the 
tailor never so poor, he'll still have a 
goose at the fire. 

This word has several slang senses. To 
goose meant to hiss a play ; hence the 
despondent players' remarks : The goose 
is in the house ; hence also the expres- 
sions "to get the big bird" ; "give him the 
bird" — which we use for a sound less 
like the goose hiss than like the goose 
honk, the Bronx cheer ; cp. Dutch. From 
the story of the man that killed the goose 
that laid the golden eggs comes the ex- 
pression "to cook one's goose" .. .Don't 
be uneasy; and keep clear of disease. 

See buck. 


Tliis word has been linked with 
yeast, that which makes rise, as mean- 
ing the rising-place ; Easter is the sea- 
son when the Lord ariseth. It seems 
rather to be from the Aryan root 
us, to burn, whence Sansk. vas, shine. 
IV est, similarly, has been called the 

place wiiere the sun wasteth; it is 
probably rather the place where tlie 
sun abides at night, from Sansk. vasta, 
house ; vasati, night. South is the 
sunned quarter, from OHG. simth, the 
n dropping as in tooth, from tanth, 
from Sansk. danta, whence L. dens, 
dent, whence dentist. North is where 
the sun's course narroi^'eth, and that's 
the only guess. All these words for 
the four corners of the earth are very 


This is from AS. Eostre, a pagan god- 
dess whose festival came at the spring 
equinox. The festival was called Eastron 
(plural of Eastre). The Christian fes- 
tival of the resurrection of Christ has in 
most European languages taken the name 
of the Jewish Passover (Fr. Pacques, It. 
Pasqua, from L. pascha — in Eng. the 
Paschal lamb — from Gr. pascha, from 
Heb. pesach) ; but in the Eng. the pagan 
word has remained for the Christian fes- 
tival. Passover takes its name (the He- 
brew has the same meaning, pass over) 
from the fact that the angel of the Lord, 
in smiting the first born of every Egyptian 
(before Moses led his people out of 
bondage), passed over the homes of the 


See indenture. 


Se^ church. The earliest assemblies 
had large elements of ritual in them, as 
even today ours begin with prayer. The 
Gr. ekklesia, before it meant church, 
meant the general assembly of the 
.-\thenians, from ekkalein, to call out 
Hence also L. ecce!, Behold! esp. in Ecce 
Homo, Behold the Man, used in John 
xix, 5 of Christ with the crown of 


This arrangement of troops (in stag- 



gered but parallel formation) has de- 
veloped into the triangular pattern of 
aviation flight. It is Fr. echelon, rung 
of a ladder, diminutive of echclle, lad- 
der, from OFr. escliiele, from L. scala, 
ladder — whence also Eng. scale, to 
measure (from the ladder-like divi- 
sions), or to climb (scale a wall). 
The scale of a balance is a common 
Tcut. word : AS. scealu, cup, shell, 
whence Eng. shale; but OHG.scala, 
which word is also chip, husk, whence 
scale of a fish. The L. scala is cognate 
with scandere, scans — to climb, whence 
scan (to climb so as to observe; and 
to climb up the feet of a poem). 
Scandal is from Gr. scandalon, some- 
thing that makes one stumble, i.e., the 
spring of a trap, that sends one help- 
lessly climbing in air. 


See nuptials. 

See slate. 

See element (at end) ; tank. 

See element (at end). 


See acumen, 


5"^^ indenture. 


See verdict. 

See destroy. 


See afifect ; defeat. 


See fetus. 


See defeat. 


See faint. 


See flower. 


A bashful boy used to stand with low- 
ered eyes; this attitude was associated 


with blushing. Thus in Latin, to be un- 
blushing, unashamed, was to be "without 
brow", ex -f- frons, front — , brow; 
whence Eng. effrontery. There is an early 
Eng. effifont, to free from bashfulness, 
to render bold, as a girl's encouraging 

This L. frons, front — , applied to the 
foremost part of anything, gives us Eng. 
front (which first meant forehead) ; 
frontier; frontispiece, q.v. A blow on the 
forehead was an affront (L. ad, to) ; 
then, figuratively, an insult. To bring 
face to face (L. con, against) is to con- 

These words may have influenced the 
form of Eng. frown, from OFr. froignier, 
frongnier, perhaps related to Teut. 
frogna, nostril — which a frown draws 
toward the brow. 

Brow itself is common Teut., AS. 
bru; Sans. bhru. To browbeat is to over- 
awe with stern and haughty brow. From 
folk association of brains with extent of 
forehead come — with some implication of 
mockery — our lowbrow and our highbrow 
— who is sometimes supercilious, q.v. 


See futile. 


See acumen. 


See nugget. 

egoism, egotism. 

See altruism. 


This first meant outstanding, chosen 
from the flock, from L. egregius, from 
ex — -f grex, gregis, herd ; see absolute. 
But, in the cynical way of human nature, 
it came to be used mainly of those out- 
standingly bad. 


See issue. 

See number. 


See weather. 


See wasp. 

See subject. 





See auction. 

See swivel. 


Those without study of physics think of 
an elastic (rubber) band; the word, 
earlier elastical, referred first to the prop- 
erty of expansion, as of gases ; then, to 
the ability (the scientific use today) to 
return to the usual bulk after expansion 
or cdntraction. This "impulsive force" 
was named in the 17th c. from Gr. elas- 
tikos, driving, from elaunein, to drive. 
The property was at the same time called 
elater, then elatery, before the term elas- 
ticity supplanted it ; now elater is re- 
tained (in Linnaeus' system, ca. 1740: 
Carl von Linne, Swedish naturalist, 1707- 
1778) for the family of beetles that can 
flip over from their back to land on their 
feet — at which a youngster would be 
elated. This elation is to be carried out 
of oneself, from L. ej, ex, out: efferre, 
etuli, elatus, to carry out; cp. port. 

See elastic. 


5"^^ pylorus. 

See world. 

See legible. 


Resin, the sap of certain trees, some- 
times with insects caught in it, and 
hardened through the centuries until 
turned to stone, has since early times 
been used as an adornment. It was 
often found in the ocean. We call it 
amber; the Greeks called it elektron. 
Then they discovered that, when rubbed, 
it has odd qualities : puff balls swing ; 
things are attracted and repelled. This 
was (outside of lightning) man's first 
contact with electricity. 

Among the uses man put this power 
to (formed by analogy with execution) 
is electrocution. When scientists saw in 
all matter only whirling electric energy, 
they took the original Gr. word to de- 
scribe this basic whirl-stuff: electron. 
Amber adornments have been largely 
replaced by plastic ones ; but electricity 
goes on. 

The Gr. elektron is traced to Gr. 
elektor, sunglare, the ancient notion be- 
ing that the glare of the sun haiTlened 
on striking the sea. Pliny the Elder, 
in his Natural History, ca. 70 A.D., 
knew its origin ; he noted that the Ger- 
mans called it glaesum — whence our 
glass and glaze. 

In the meantime, the two substances 
found floating in the sea were both called 
amber, from Arab, 'anbar. One was Fr. 
ambre gris, gray amber, now Eng. am- 
bergris; the other was ambre jaune, yel- 
low amber, now Eng. amber. 

See electricity, refrain. 


See lysol. 

See electricity. 


See licorice. 


See alms. 

elegance, elegant. 
See legible. 


This is directly from L. elementum, 
meaning basically the simplest form of 
matter. For a long time there were sup- 
posed to be four elements: earth, water, 
air, fire. Modern chemistry distinguishes 
ninety-two (some with variant forms, 
called isotopes: Gr. ifos, equal -f topos, 
place; they occupy the same place in the 
periodic table of elements). The ninety- 
two are listed here, each followed bv its 
symbol and atomic number in the table of 

actinium. Ac. 89 

Discovered by Debieme in 1899, 
this radioactive element is named from 
Gr. aktis, aitin-, ray. 

alabamine. Ab. 85 

Discovered in 1931 by chemists at 
the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and 
named for the State. One of these 
chemists was Allison; cp. virginium. 

aluminum. Al. 13 

This was first called alumium, later 
(and sometimes still) aluminium. It is 
from L. alumen, a stringent substance,, 
which also gives us alum. Although 




the most abundant metal on the sur- 
face of the earth, aluminum was not 
isolated until the 19th century, 

antimony. Sb. 51 

The Gr. stimmi (also stigm-, whence 
Eng. stigma), mark, became L. stib- 
ium. A powdered mineral, stibnite, 
was used by the ancients as a pigment 
and for the eyes (it is the eastern 
kohl, q.v.). In the 11th century the 
metal was called antimonia, perhaps a 
L. form of Arab, al-ithmid. Also sug- 
gested as origin is the Gr. anti monos, 
against one, in the folk thought that 
the qualities of the substance are too 
many to be described by a single man. 
But see pretzel. 

argon. A. 18 

Discovered in the atmosphere in 
1894, this gas was named from Gr, 
argon, a — , not, + ergon, work, as 
it does not readily combine with other 
elements. Also from Gr. ergon are 
Eng. erg and energy. Ramsay and 
Travers found this element, also the 
other inert gases helium, krypton, 
neon, xenon, q.v. 

arsenic. As. 33 

The mineral orpiment was called in 
Arab, az-zirnikh, the golden, from 
Persian zarnikh, from zar, gold; cp. 
zirconium. The Greeks also used the 
yellow pigment ; but they knew its 
medicinal properties, and by folk ety- 
ology changed the Arab, name to ar- 
senikon, akin to Gr. assen, potent 

barium. Ba. 56 

This metal was isolated from an 
earth (discovered by Scheele in 1779) 
named baryta, from Gr. barys, heavy. 

beryllium. Be. 4 

Isolated in 1828, this element is 
named from the stone beryl, Gr. 
beryllos, in which it was first fotmd. 
It is also called glucinum, Gl, (Gr. 
glykeros, sweet) from the taste of its 
salts. Cp. glucose, glycerin. 

bismuth. Bi. 83 

This was early G. wismut, later by 
folk etymology Weissmuth, white sub- 
stance. Agricola gave it the L. form 
of bisemutum, whence our term. 
(Agricola Latinized many words, in 
his De Re Metallica, 1530. Incident- 
ally, he translated his own name, 
whicn as German Bauer, farmer. 

Similarly Melancthon, 1497-1560, is 
the Greek of German Schwarzert, 
black earth ; the first and last names 
of Desiderius Erasmus 1466?-1536, are 
L. and Gr. for Gerhards, strong in 
affection ; Thomas Erastus, 1524-93, 
was really Lieber, loving one ; and 
many others of the time made similar 
translations. Cp complexion.) 

boron. B. 5 

Long before the "twenty mule team" 1 
of the United States, borax was im- 
ported to Europe from Asia. The word 
is from Arab, buraq, Pers. burah, 
white. The element, drawn by Davy 
from boric (boracic) acid, was called 
boracium, then boron. 

bromine. Br. 35 

Isolated in 1825, this is from Gr. 
bromos, stink. 

cadmium. Cd. 48 

This word was applied to a brass 
dust in foundries, perhaps first in 
the neighborhood of Thebes, founded 
by Kadmus — who also is credited with 
the invention of letters. The element 
was found by Stromeyer in 1817. 

calcium. Ca. 20 

This metal was found in lime, L. 
calx, calc — ,• whence also calculate, 

carbon. C. 6 

The L. for charcoal and coal was 
carbo, carbon^-. The element also 
exists as diamond, q.v. 

cerium. Ce. 58 

Discovered in 1803 by Hisinger and 
Berzelius, this element was named 
cererium after the asteroid Ceres, dis- 
covered by Piazzi in 1801. The name 
was soon changed to the simpler 
cerium. Cp. uranium. 

cesium. Cs. 55 

Found through the spectroscope in 
1860, this metal was named for its 
color, L. caesius, blue gray. Cp. rubi- 
dium; thallium. 

chlorine. CI. 17 

Named by I>avy, 1811, from its 
color, Gr. chloros, yellowish green. 

chromium. Cr. 24 

We have chrome yellow, and chro- 
matic, from Gr. chroma, color. The 
colored compounds of this element 
suggested its name. 




cobalt. Co. 27 

The medieval goblin that was sup- 
posed by the miners to keep ore from 
yielding metal was called Kobold (the 
name is from OHG. Godbald, bold in 
God) ; the name was given this ele- 
ment by Brandt, who isolated it in 

columbium. Cb. 41 

This element was found in England 
by Hatchett, in 1801, studying a 
mineral from the United States, sent 
by John Winthrop the Younger, gov- 
ernor of Connecticut, and put in the 
British Museum. Hatchett named it 
in honor of that country. Associated 
with the element tantalum, it is also 
called niobium (Nb.), after Niobe, 
daughter of Tantalus. 

copper. Cu. 29 

This is from L. aes Cyprium, bronze 
from Cyprus. 

dysprosium. Dy. 66 

The Or. prefix dys — (opposite of 
eu — as in eugenics) means bad, hard; 
it destroys the good values of a word. 
Gr. pros, to, combined with this, makes 
a coined word indicating that the ele- 
ment was hard to reach. It was with 
difficulty separated from the element 
holmium, in 1886. 

erbium. Er. 68 

Various earths, from mines near the 
town of Ytterby in Sweden, were 
named by Mosander, who separated 
them in 1843, erbia, terbia, and yttria, 
from the name of the town. The first 
of these gives us the element erbium. 
Later two other elements were separ- 
ated, ytterbium and lutecium, q.v. 
Others found with these earths are 
gadolinium, holmium, scandium, thu- 
lium, thorium. 

europium. Eu. 63 

The mineral samarskite, named after 
a Russian mine official Samarski, was 
found, about 1900. to contain two ele- 
ments. One Boisbaudran named samar- 
ium; the other Demarcay named, after 
the continent, europium. 

fluorine. F. 9 

From L. jluere, to flow ; used as a 
flux with metals because of its low 
melting point A number of meri died 
working with this element, finally iso- 
lated by Moissan in 1886. 

gadolinium. Gd. 64 

Several elements {erbium, q.v.) were 
extracted from the mineral gadolinite, 
which was discovered in 1794 by 
Gadolin. The element gadolinium was 
named after him. 

gallium. Ga. 31 

Lecoq de Boisbaudran, who discov- 
ered this element in 1875, named it 
for his country, France, the L. name 
for which is Gallia. Cp. germanium; 
scandium : nationalism in chemistry. 

germanium. Ge. 32 

This element, discovered in 1886 
by Winkler, was named after his 
country, Germany. Cp. gallium; scan- 

gold. Au. 79 

The L. aurum, gold, (akin to Att- 
rora, goddess of the dawn) gives the 
symbol for this element; the name is 
common Teut., cognate with yellow 
(G. Geld gold; G. gelb, yellow). 

hafnium. Hf. 72 

Named after Copenhagen, formerly 
called Hajnia. It was discovered in 
1923 by Coster and Hevesy; not recog- 
nized until then because of its likeness 
to Zirconium. 

helium. He. 2 

This element was first observed in 
the spectrum of the sun, during an 
eclipse in India in 1868. The Gr. 
helios means sun. 

holmium. Ho. 67 

This element (found by Cleve in 
1879, in erbia earth) is named after 
Stockholm, L. Holmia. It was iso- 
lated in 1911 by Holmberg. 

hydrogen. H. 1 

From Gr. hydor, hydro — , water, -f- 
gen — , to produce, as it formed water. 
Named bv Lavoisier. 

illinium. II. 61 

Discovered by chemists at the Uni- 
versity of Illinois, in 1926, this ele- 
ment was named after the State. 

indium. In. 49 

Named after the color of its lines 
in the spectnim, indigo. Indigo was 
earlier from L. Indicum, of India. 
The element was found in 1863. Cp. 




iodine. I. 53 

This element, discovered by Cour- 
tois in 1811, was named from the color 
of its vapor, after Gr. iodes, from 
ton, violet. 

iridium. It. 77 

From the colors of its salt solutions, 
Tennant, who discovered this element 
in 1803. named it after Gr. iris, irid — , 

iron. Fe. 26 

The symbol is from L. ferrum, as 
also in Eng. ferric and ferrous. The 
name of the element is common Teut., 
but perhaps was borrowed from the 
Celts, who used iron before the Teu- 
tons : AS. isern, iren; Irish iarann; 
Welsh haearn. 

krypton. Kr. 36 

Found, in 1898, only after evaporat- 
ing enormous amounts of liquid air, 
this element was named from Gr. 
kryptos, hidden; as also in cryptog- 

lanthanum. La. 57 

Mosander, in 1839, studying another 
substance, found this element, which 
he named from Gr. lanthanein, to lurk. 
Four years later he drew from it 
another element, which he called didy- 
mium, from Gr. didymos, twin. But 
in 1885 von Welsbach found that this 
was really two elements, which he 
called neodidymia (Gr. neo — , new) 
and praseodidymia (Gr. prasios, 
green). These names were shortened 
to neodymium and praseodymium. 

lead. Pb. 82 

This word is AS. lead, Du. lood; G. 
Lot, plummet; and plummet is from 
L. plumbum, the Roman name for the 
metal, which gives us the symbol of 
the element. 

lithium. Li. 3 

Gr. lithos, stone (as also in lithog- 
raphy) gives this element its name; 
when discovered by Arfvedson in 1817 
it was thought to exist only in min- 

mafi:nesium. Mg. 12 

Two substances found in the 18th 
c. in Gr. Magnesia, a district of 
Thessaly, were called magnesia alba 
and magnesia nigra (L. alba, white; 
nigra, black). To distinguish the ele- 
ments, the first is called magnesium; 
the other, manganese. In the same 
district was found an oxide of iron 
with qualities now known as magnetic. 

manganese. Mn. 25 
See magnesium. 

masurium. Ma. 43 

Found in 1925, this element is named 
after the district of Masuria, in East 
Prussia, whence came the substance 
(platinum ore) from which it was 
extracted. It was found by Noddack 
and Tacke, along with rhenium, q.v. 

mercury. Hg. 80 

The symlwl is from Gr. hydor 
ar gyros, water silver (Gr. hydor, 
hydr — , Water, as in Eng. hydrant, 
hydraulic, -f- Gr. argyros, silver, cog- 
nate with argos, white, shining, speedy ; 
whence Eng. argent, argonaut). The 
Romans gave the name of the god of 
merchants (and thieves, also mes- 
senger of the gods: Mercury) to a 
planet; then to a metal that seemed 
to possess some of the god's qualities. 

molybdenum. Mo. 42 

Gr. molybdos, lead, was applied to 
substances that left a mark, like 
graphite. From one of these, the ele- 
ment was extracted. 

neodymium. Nd. 60 
See lanthanum. 

neon. Ne, 10 

When found (in 1898), this was 
new, and was so named (Gr. neos, 

nickel. Ni. 28 

The miners called this Kupfemickel, 
because they couldn't get any copper 
from it; the "goblin" was interfering 
again (cp. cobalt) : G. Nickel, goblin, 
is a form of the name Niklaus, Nicho- 
las. In 1751 Cronstedt declared it an 
element and called it nickel. 

lutecium. Lu. 71 

This metal was named by Urbain, 
in 1907, after his native city of Paris, 
formerly Lutetia. It was fotmd in 
ytterbia; see erbium. 


nitrogen. N. 7 

The Arab, natrun, which gives us 
Eng. natron, was taken into Gr. as 
nitron, whence Eng. nitre. Hence the 
element nitrogen, ' nitre -horn" . It was 


earlier called mephitic air ; and, by 
Lavoisier, asote, from Gr. a — , with- 
out, + 20on, living thing. 

osmium. Os. 76 

This element is named from Gr. 
osme, odor — perhaps related to Gr. 
osmos, thrust; whence Eng. osmosis. 
It was found in 1803, by Tennant. 

oxygen. O. 8 

From Gr. oxys, sour (acid) -)- 
gen — . producting. Named by Lavoi- 
sier, but isolated by Scheels, in 1771 
(published 1777) and Priestley, in 

palladium. Pd. 46 

The asteroid Pallas was discovered 
by Olbers in 1802; the element pal- 
ladium, in 1803, by Wollaston. Pallas 
Athene was the goddess of Athens. 

phosphorus. P. 15 

From the Gr. phos, light, +J>horos, 
bearing, this element was kept in the 
dark by Brandt, who discovered it in 
1669, until it was also found by others. 
It glows in the dark. 

platinum- Pt. 78 

This was earlier platina, a Sp. 
diminutive of plata, silver; whence 
also our precious metal, plate. 

polonium. Po. 84 

When Mme. Curie first separated 
a radio-active element, in 1898, she 
named it for her native land, Poland. 

potassium. K. 19 

The symbol is from L, kalium, from 
the Arab, at qali (whence Eng. alkali), 
the ashes of a sea plant, from which 
sodium carbonate was obtained. This 
was long identifi?"d with potassium 
carbonate, from the ashes of land 
plants. These plants were burned in 
pots ; hence, pot ashes (now Eng. 
potash) ; and the element derived from 
them, by Davy in 1807. waa called 

praseodymium. Pr. 59 

See lanthanum. 

protoactinium. Pa. 91 

This element, if it loses an alpha 
particle, becomes actiniutn, q.v.; henc^ 
Its name : Gr. protos. first. It was 
isolated in 1917. 


radium. Ra. 88 

This element was discovered by the 
Curies in 1898; its power of giving 
off rays gave it its name : L. radius, 

radon. Rn. 86 

This element, discovered by Dorn 
in 1900, is given off by the element 
radium; hence its name. It is the 
heaviest gas known. 

rhenium. Re. 75 

Found in Germany in 1925, this ele- 
ment was named after Rhenish Prussia 
(along the Rhine). Cp. masurium. 

rhodium. Rh. 45 

Wollaston found this element in 
1803. It is named from the color of 
its salt solution, Gr. rhodon, rose; 
whence also Eng. rhododendron, q.v. 

rubidium. Rb. 37 

This element gives red lines in the 
spectrum ; hence its name, from L. 
ruber, ♦'wbtd — , red; whence also Eng. 
rube scent. It was foimd through the 
spectroscope in 1861. Cp. cesium. 

ruthenium. Ru. 44 

A Ruthene is a Little Russian, from 

LL. Rutheni for Russi. Osann thus 

called an element he found in 1828, 

in ore from the Ural Mountains, 


samarium. Sa. 62 

See europium. 

scandium. Sc. 21 

The L. Scandia is Scandinavia; 
where this element comes from. It 
was found in 1879 by Nilson, in the 
erbia group; cp. erbium; gallium. 

selenium. Se. 34 

This element, found in 1817 by 
Berzelius, was first thought to be 
tellurium, to which it is akin. As 
tellurium is the earth element, this 
element was named after the moon: 
Gr. selene, moon. L. tellus, tellur — , 
earth, gives the name to tellurium, 
found in the late 18th century. 

silicon. St 14 

From L. silex, silic — , flint, comes 
Eng. silica; also the element. It was 
first named silicium, by Berzelius, in 
1810, when he thought it was a metal. 




silver. Ag. 47 

This is a common Tent, word, AS. 
seolfor, a very ancient word. The 
symbol is from the Gr. argyros, shin- 
ing ; cp. mercury. 

sodium. Na. 11 

The symbol is from L. natrium, 
from natron; cp. nitrogen. Sodium, a 
L. form of soda, was coined by Davy, 
who obtained the element in 18C^, 
using caustic soda. Soda, Fr. soude, is 
possibly from L. solida, solid. 

strontium. Sr. 38 

Isolated in 1808, by Davy, from a 
mineral from Strontian, in Argyll, 

sulfur, sulphur. S. 16 

This is an old word, L. sulfur, sul- 
pur; applied generally to substances 
that burned. 

tantalum, Ta. 73 

This element, found by Ekeberg in 
1802, was hard to locate; its tracking 
down was a tantalizing (q.v.) task. 
Hence he named it tantalum. It was 
found with the element columbium, 

tellurium. Te. 52 

See selenium. 

terbium. Tb. 65 

See erbium. 

thallium. Tl. 81 

Found by Crookes in 1861, a green 
line in the spectrum, this element is 
named from Gr. thallos, green shoot, 
from thallein, to sprout. The same 
root gave us Thalia, the comic Muse. 
Cp. cesium. 

thorium. Th. 90 

Berzelius, in 1815, among the earths 
with erbium, q.v., found what he 
thought was an element, and named 
it after the Scandinavian god Thar. 
He admitted in 1825 that he had 
been wrong; then gave the name to 
an element he found in 1828. 

thulium. Tm, 69 

Another of the elements found with 
erbium, q.v. (in 1879). this was also 
named for the part of the world where 
found : the Romans called the far 
north Ultima Thule. 

tin. Sn. 50 

It is natural that the Tcut. term 
for this metal be used, for the ancient 
Romans secured tin from mines in 
Britain. The symbol stands for stan- 
num, the earlier Roman name. 

Titanium, Ti. 22 

When Klaproth, in 1789, found an 
element in pitchblende (the emana- 
tions of which led later to the find- 
ing of radium), he named it after the 
Greek pod of Heaven, Uranus — but 
directly from the planet Uranus, which 
Herschel has discovered in 1781. Six 
years later, he named another element 
(first called menachanite, because 
found by Gregor in Menachan, Corn- 
wall, England) titanium, after the 
Titans, children of Uranus and Gaea 

tungsten, W. 74 

This element is named (by Scheele, 
1781) Sw. tung -|- sten, heavy stone. 
The. symbol is for Wolframium; Agri- 
cola said that the mineral eats tin as 
a wolf eats sheep. 

uranium. U, 92 
See titanium. 

vanadium. V, 23 

One of the names of the Norse god- 
dess Freya was Vanadis; this metal 
was named for her by Seftsrom and 
Berzelius, 1831. 

virginium. Vi. 87 

Named after Virginia, the native 
state of Allison, who found the ele- 
ment in 1930. 

xenon. Xe. 54 

Also found by evaporation of large 
quantities of liquid air (by Ramsay 
and Travers. in 1898), this is from 
Gr. xenos stranger, guest. 

ytterbium, Yb. 70 
See erbium. 

yttrium. Y. 39 
See erbium. 

zinc. Zn. 30 

This word, used by Agricola (L. 
sincum) is of unknown origin. 

zirconium. Zr. 40 

Drawn by Klaproth, in 1789, from 
the semi-precious zircon, this element 
was named from its source. Zircon is 



via Arab zarqun from Pers. ear. gold ; 
cp. arsenic. The element was not iso- 
lated until 1824, by Berzelius and not 
made, pure, until 1914. 

Certain elements, when first fotmd, 
were temporarily named for that from 
which they were extracted (or drawn 
from by pfediction, before the finding). 
Thus gallium was called eka-aluminum; 
alabamine, eka-iodine ; germanium, eka- 
silicon; protoactinium, eka-tantalum; 
scandium, eka-boron; virginium, eka- 
cesium. (The first of each of these pairs 
is two periods higher than the second, 
in the same element-group.) 

The Gr. prefix ek, eks (L. ex), ekto, 
meant out of, outside. Thus we have 
also Eng. ectoplasm, a plasma (Gr. 
plasma, from plassein, to mould) outside 
the form; and ecstasy, which means liter- 
ally a state of being beside oneself, from 
ec, out of, -|- histani, to cause to stand. 
The root of Gr. histani is states, whence 
many words like L. and Eng. status; 
state; thermostat, that makes the tem- 
perature stand still. Cp. tank. 


See focus, 


See number. 


See incinerator. 


See legible. 


See limen. 


See world. 


See agnostic 


See subjugate. 

See agnostic. 

See daflfodil. 


See manoeuvre. 

See bank. 


embarcation, embark. 
See embargo. 


This was first an order shutting ships 
into a harbor (and not allowing others 
to enter) as when a war was expected. 
To bar was Fr. barre, a barrier; hence, 
a pole across something, and the barre 
for the ballet or the bar for the beer. 
With L. in, intensive, this via the Fr. 
embarrer gave us Eng. embar; and via 
LL. form imbarricare, imbarricat- came 
Sp. embargar, to arrest ; whence Sp. and 
Eng. embargo. Barricade is directly from 
Fr. barrique, barrel, as barricades were 
thrown together of barrels filled with dirt 
and stones. Sp. and Port, embarcar, from 
L. imbarcare, imbarcat-, to go on board 
(whence Eng. embarcation) , from L. in, 
into, -^barca, boat. Eng. bark, give us 
embark ... if there's no embargo! 


See ambassador. 


This is a picture within which is an- 
other idea, the object you see being a 
symbol. But this figurative use was 
preceded by a literal one ; the word is 
from Gr. emblema, inlaid work, from 
em, in + ballein, to throw ; cp. ballot. 
Thus the scales are an emblem of jus- 
tice. Justice is blindfold 'so as to act 
without favor, equally for poor and 
rich. Similarly Zeus blinded Plutns, god 
6f wealth (Gr. ploutos, wealth, stem 
Gr. pie OS, more, whence L. plus; cp. 
foil; hence Eng. plutocracy — -f- Gr. 
kratein, to rule) so that he might dis- 
tribute his gifts without regard to merit, 
like the rain, which falleth alike on the 
wicked and the good. See parlor. 

See parlor. 


See brassiere. 


See island. 

See refrain. 


See carnelian. 


See immunity. 




This word, from the Arab, amir, prince, 
from Arab, amara, to command, has also 
given us the more familiar word admiral, 
q.v. Admire, from L. ad, at, to + mirari, 
to wonder, meant first to marvel at, then 
to regard with pleased surprise, then just 
to look at with pleasure. From the same 
L, mirari, via L. mirator- and OFr. mire- 
or comes the admiring glass, or looking- 
glass, the mirror at which milady makes 
her appearance admirable. 

Another suggestion, more plausibleT, for 
the ending -al in admiral is that it was 
•■etained from the Arab., where it ap- 
pears in very frequent combinations : e.g., 
amir-al-umara, king of kings; amir-al- 
muminin, commander of the faithful. 

See salary. 


See mute. 


travel (related, perhaps, to Gr. pod, foot; 
cp. pedagogue; L. per, through). Per- 
haps is a hybrid : L. per, through, + AS. 
hap, chance (perchance; cp. cheat), luck; 
whence happen. Happy first meant lucky ; 
and if you were luclq^ you'd be happy too. 

See pyre. 


See omelette. 


See casement. 

See catholic. 

See chant, trance. 

enclose, enclosure. 
See close, pylorus, cp. inclose. 

See empire. 


See focus. 


The L. imperare, imperat-, to command, 
gave L. imperator, commander, which was 
given as an honorary title (commander- 
in-chief) to the Caesars whence, via. 
OFr. emperere, Eng. emperor. The L. 
imperium, rule, also via Fr. gives us em- 
pire; more directly, the adjective Eng. 
imperial. Empiric and empirical, how- 
ever, are from the Gr. enpeiros, skilled, 
from en, in -}- peira, trial. 

In early use, from an opposition be- 
tween trial and study, the term en}piric 
was applied to a trial-and-error doctor, a 
quack. It has been elevated into a phil- 
osophical attitude in empiricism. One 
that actually has tried things out is the 
pragmatist, from Gr. pragma, prag- 
mat — , deed, from prattein, to do. 

empiric, empirical, empiricism. 

See empire. 


See complexion. 


This is a place where merchants come 
together, Gr. emporios from emporos, 
merchant. Then, as recently, the mer- 
chant was a traveling salesman : Gr. rm- 
poros is from Gr. en, in -f- por-, per-, to 


The comic spirit was borne, if not 
bom, in the village revel in honor of 
Bacchus. From Gr. home, village, came 
Gr. komos, revel; whence all our com- 
edy. The song sung in this revel (Gr. 
en, in) was the encomium, in praise of 
the god of pleasure. 

See garble. 

See tergiversation. 


See suffer. 


See element : argon ; organ. 
See zymurgy. Gr. en, with intenshrc 
force, -h ergon, ourgia, working). 

See free. 

See cyanide ; racy. 


This word shows the power tran»- 
f erred to its product. Pronounced with 
the accent on a long i, imtil mid 17th 
c, it meant mother wit, from L. irt- 
genium, the powers inborn. Hence also 
ingenious; see racy. 



England, English. 

See Anglo-Saxon. English is a sound- 
shifting from Anglish, from Angle-ish. 


See grave. 


See joy. 

See remnant. 


See sign. 


See psilo-. 


See free. 

See trance. 


See surprise. 

entertain. , 

This word had a long course to iti 
present meaning. It is via Fr. entretenir 
from L. inter, among -|- tenere, to hold; 
cp. tennis. It first meant to keep things 
intertwined ; then, applied to persons, to 
keep (to maintain). This also of ideas 
and things : to entertain an opinion. Then, 
to keep in good condition; again of per- 
sons, to keep occupied — which might 
mean either to keep busy or to keep 
amused. From the common preference in 
this regard, the current sense of enter- 

See trance. 


Wlien anyone was really roused, it 
was assumed in the old times that a 
god (if not a demon) had possessed 
him. This possession, among the Greeks, 
was enthusiasm, from Gr. enthousiasmos, 
from enlheos, a god within, from en, 
in -f theos, god ; cp. month : February. 
Similarly the Romans spoke of the tem- 
ple-spirit ; cp. fanatic. And the Anglo- 
Saxons, of the god-held man : AS. 
gydif/; which we preserve as giddy. 


Has a thing of beauty — a woman, a 
sunset — ever turned you from your 


busy thoughts? And set you suddenly 
afire? Then indeed you have been en- 
ticed, from OFr. enticier, from LL. 
inlittare, to set on fire, from titio, a 
firebrand. To provoke is to call forth, 
from L. provocare, from pro, forth -4- 
vocare, vocat — , to call, whence Eng. 
vocation, calling, from L. vox, voc — , 
voice, whence Eng. vocal, vocable; LL. 
vocabularium, whence vocabulary; Fr. 
vois, whence voice. Lure is from Fr. 
leurre, from OHG. luoder, bait. The 
siren's voice was a lure to entice sailors. 

See deck. 


See authentic. 


Sec insect. 

See trance. 


See surprise. 


This term in the second law of thermo- 
dynamics, popularly construed as 'the 
universe is running down', was coined in 
1865 by Rudolf J. E. Clausius (1822-88) 
after the word energy, q.v. It means the 
"transformation-contents" of a system, 
from Gr. en-, within + trope, transforma- 
tion, from trepein, to change, to turn ; cp. 

See prestige. 

See number. 

See develop. 

envisage, envy. 
See improvised. 


This is the dawn-horse, Gr. eos, dawn; 
cp. dromedary. 

ephebic (oath). 

Graduates of the College of the City 
of New York take the ephebic oath, 
of devotion to their city, as they enter 
manhood's years. An ephebe was a 
Greek of the age of 18 to 20: from 
Gr. ephebos, from epi, upon -f- hebt, 



early manhood. Note that Hebe was 
the goddess of youth. Also, hebetic. 


See decay. 

See Castanet. 


See Appendix II. 


See propaganda. 


See laugh. (Gr. epi-, over, upon). 


(pronounced with four syllables). See 


The L. aequus, just, even, formed 
another adjective, aeqtialis; this came into 
Eng. as equal. From the verb L. aequare, 
aequat-, to make level or even, came 
Eng. equation; also L. aequabilis, that 
can be evened; hence smooth; from this 
we have Eng. equable. There was also 
L. equus, horse; Eng. equine; L. eques, 
horseman. L. equestris, relating to .him ; 
whence Eng. equestrian. From the Teu- 
tonic into this picture came OHG. scur. 
shed; MHG. schiure, barn; LL. scuria, 
stable: from the mistaken notion that 
this was related to L. equus, horse, came 
the forms that ended in Eng. equerry, the 
royal stables. And esquire (similarly 
shifting) is from OFr. escuyer, from L. 
scutarius, shield-bearer (Eng. squire), 
from L. scutum, shield. Scutum and its 
diminutives scutellum and scutulum are 
Eng. biological words; scutellum being a 
scientist's error; it is really L. scutella, 
platter. But actually from L. scutum via 
LL. form escution — comes Eng. escutche- 
on, as in the blot on the 'scutcheon. 

equal, equation, equestrian. 

See equable. 


On March 20 and September 22, the 
sun's path crosses the equator; this is 
the equinoctial period, when day and night 
are of the same length (L. aequus, equal 
-I- nox, noct—, night). The vernal equi- 
nox is from the L. adjective from L. 
ver, spring; akin to L. viridare, to grow 
green, from viridis, green, whence Eng. 
verdant, verdure. Cp. month; week. 


Autumn and the autumnal equinox are 
from L. autumnus, from? auctumnus, the 
time of increase; cp. auction. 

eradicate, erase. 
See rascal. 

See complexion, element : bismuth. 


See element. 

erect, erection. 
See alert ; royal. 


See element : argon ; organ. 

See Appendix II. 


See rodent. 


See anacampserote. Young Eros is the 
Greek Cupid; see psychoanalysis; Ap- 
pendix II. 

See errand. 

errand, errant. 

The knights-errant sometimes had a 
specific errand; sometimes they just 
wandered about the countryside. This is 
caught in the history of the word, from 
Fr. errant, present particple of errer. 
This verb developed from L. iterare, to 
travel ; cp. obituary; and also from L. 
errare, errat — , to go astray (whence 
lists of errata; err; erratic, etc.). 
Knights-errant kept their dignity; but 
the doublet arrant was so often associ- 
ated with vagabond, knave, etc., that it 
became merely an intensive. Errand is 
a common Teut. word, from AS. 
aerend, mission; AS. ar, messenger, 
(For knight, see lady.) 

errata, erratic. 
See errand. 


See oleomargarine. 


See rote. 


See achieve. 



See scarf. 

See equable. 


See Hebrew. 


See salary. 

See spouse. 


See scourge. 


See equable. 

essence, essential. 
See authentic. 

See tank. 


See season. In political use, the First 
Estate is the body of Lords Spiritual ; 
the second, of Lords Temporal ; the 
third, the commons. While not repre- 
sented in legislatures, the press has so 
much power in a nation that it has 
come to be referred to as the fourth 

estivation, estuary. 
5"^^ hibernate. 


See indenture. 


This might well be — the Greeks 
thought so, too — Aithiopia, from aithein, 
to bum : the land of the sunburned. It 
is, however, an adaptation of the native 
Egyptian name, Ethaush. 


This may have come natural to the 
ancients, for it is of Teut. origin. (Re- 
member the story of the old man who 
walked through the crowded Athenian 
bleachers at a stadium ; when he came 
to the Spartan section, the men rose as 
one, to offer him a seat — whereupon 
the Athenians applauded. When they 
were still again, a man from Thessaly 
observed : "The Athenians recognize vir- 
tue; the Spartans practice it.") Eti- 


guette is from OFr. estiquete; whence 
also Eng. ticket; the Fr. is from G. 
stecken, to put, causal of stechen, to 
prick; whence Eng. stitch; cp. attack. 
The first meaning of etiquette was a 
label or ticket stuck on a post; such 
notices had the rules of the day, for 
army or court procedure ; hence the 
present meaning. 

To purchase things on tick / is a 
(17th c. ; cp. mob) shortening of ticket; 
sailors would use their imy-tickets for 
credit slips. A ticket-of-leave man was 
a convict released, under certain condi- 
tions, before his term expired ; these 
terms were noted on his ticket. The 
insect tick is a Teut. word, related to 
G. siege, goat, woodgoat. The bed tick, 
encasing the pillow feathers, is bor- 
rowed in Teut. tongues from L. teca, 
from theca, from Gr. theke, case. The 
slight blow, or" sound, as the tick of a 
watch, is echoic. Whichever of these 
is involved, etiquette comes in; and the 
counsel to this generation is, like the 
watchful soldiers, to keep (Einily) 


The L. calix, plural calices, cup. is 
used in Eng. as a term in botany, to- 
gether with derivatives such as calicular, 
caliculate, and the diminutive calicle. By 
way of OFr. it gives us Eng. chalice. 
But confused with this in many forms is 
L. calyx, plural calyxes, from Gr. kalyx, 
the outer cover of a fruit or flower, from 
Gr. kalytein, to cover. This also (calyx} 
is used in Eng. botany, with its deriva- 
tives calycular, calyculate, calycle. The 
one set of terms refers to cup-shaped 
forms ; the second, to those that are cov- 
ered (by hoods, pods, shells, etc.). There 
is one tree, the flower of which is cov- 
ered by a sort of cap; hence (Gr. eu-, 
well, beautiful, + calyptos, covered) we 
call it the eucalyptus. Cp. evangelist. 

See charity. 

eugenics, euphemism. 
See evangelist. 


See dysentery. (L. logos, speech; c^. 

See evangelist. 




This river, named as if from Gr. 
euphrasia, delight, from euphraino, to 
gladden, is Hebraic in origin. It is 
from Heb. parah, to make fertile; pos- 
sibly influenced by Ephrath, from phar- 
ath, to be sweet — the luscious valley. 


For the Elizabethean ladies, an ex- 
uberant style of speech and writing de- 
veloped, of which an outstanding exam- 
ple is in Lyly's Euphues (Gr. euphues, 
of good nature), 1759-80, which has 
given the euphuistic style its name. This 
should not be confused with euphemism 
(from Gr. euphemizein, to speak fair) ; 
cp. evangelist. 


The ancient king Hiero wanted to 
know whether the golden crown given 
him was all gold. While Archimedes 
was taking a bath, it occtirred to him 
that a body must displace its own 
weight in water ; this might be a way 
to test the crown. Without waiting to 
dress, he cried Eureka I (Gr. heureka, 
Found !, from heuriskein, to find) and 
hurried home to dry. The logical art 
of discovery is called heuretic; modem 
education is heuristic, in that the pupil 
is trained to discover things for himself. 


Assyrian monuments present Asu, 
land of the rising sun, and Ereb, "set- 
ting sun land." The Greeks carried 
these over as Asia and Europe (in the 
Homeric Hymn to Apollo). Europe 
then developed the legend of Europa, 
daughter of Phoenix, borne off by Zeus 
as a bull {cp. Bosphorus), and becom- 
ing the mother of Minos [whence, in 
Crete, the Minotaur, or bull of Minos, 
from L. taurus, bull, whence Sp. and 
Eng. toreador. This Minotaur lurked in 
the Labyrinth (from Gr. labdys, double- 
headed ax), the windings of which give 
us Eng. labyrinthine. Theseus, who slew 
the Minotaur, needed the clue (from 
AS. cliwen, ball of thread; also clew) 
supplied by Ariadne.] The suggestion 
has been made that Europe is from Gr. 
euros, black mould + ops, face, from 
op, visible, i.e., fertile land ; but this 
seems farther- fetched than Europa by 


See wade. 

See element. 


An angel is one of the messengers 
of the Lord ; literally, one that brings 
word, from Gr. aggelein, to announce. 
If the tidings were especially good, they 
were brought by an evangel, from 
Gr. eu — , well, from eus, good. Hence 
one that hails the good tidings is an 

The prefix eu — appears in many 
Eng. words ; e.g. euphemism, from Gr. 
eupheme, speaking well of ; eugenics, 

from Gr. eu \- gen — , to produce. Sir 

Thomas More punned on the prefix in 
the title of his famous Utopia, 1516, 
which has given the word Utopian to 
the language. For a Utopia is a good 
place that is no place (Gr. eu — , well; 
ou — , not + topos, place ; whence topog- 
raphy — topos -\- graphein, to write ; and 
topic, from the title of a work by 
Aristotle, Gr. 4a topika, On common- 
places). See dysentery. 

event, eventuate. 
See prevent; cp. dollar. 

See improvised, vehicle. 


See mutton. 


The original sense of this word sur- 
vives in the verb: exact, from L. exi- 
gere, exact — , from ex, out -\-ager0, 
actum, to drive. To force out came to 
be used as to force in the direction one 
desired, to insist upon. Hence the adj. 
exact, permitting no deviation. Exigent 
comes more directly from the same 
verb. Without the prefix, we derive 
agent from the participle, the acting 
one ; from the gerundive (L. agendun%, 
— a,) agenda, things to be done; and 
from the past participle (L. actum) 
act, a thing done, a performance. Hence 
active, actor, action. Actual meant done, 
completed, hence existing now. The op- 
posite of active is passive (receiving 
the action; L. pati — ,pass — , to suffer); 
the opposite of agent is patient. (Un- 
less the agent is a first aid operator, in 
which case the recipient of the action 
is the victim. Cp. trance.) 

The frequentative of L. agere, to drive, 
is L. agitare, agitat — , to move to and 
fro, whence Eng. agitate. From the agi- 



tated stir comes the sense of excitement. 
Excite is via Fr. exciter from L. excitare, 
excitat — , to keep calling, to rouse 
(whence also Eng. excitation) frequen- 
tative of L. exciere to call forth, from ex, 
out 4- ciere, cit — , to call, to set in 
motion. The frequentative of ciere, L. 
citare, citat — , gives us Eng. citation and 
via Fr. citer Eng. cite. To move to and 
fro, gathering things together (mentally) 
is to ponder; thus L. co — , com, together 
-|- agitare gave L. cogitare, cogttat — , 
and Eng. cogitation. To think things out 
is thus Eng. excogitate. 

{Cognate is from L. co, together, -|- 
gnatus, later natus, bom, whence L. nata- 
lis, Eng. natal. And cp. cognition.) 

The L. exigere, excut — , permitting no 
deviation, developed a noun form exag- 
men, the tongue of a balance, for weigh- 
ing. Thence the verb, L. examinare, ex- 
aminat — , and our Eng. examine and the 
often dreaded examination. 

See caricature. 


See world. 

See exact 


See quaint. 


The game of chess (from OFr. 
esches, through Arab., from Pers. shah, 
king) was and is widespread. In that 
game, one must call "Check!" on put- 
ting one's opponent's king in danger ; 
hence (from OFr. eschcc) the meaning 
of holding someone in check. A bank 
check was originally a carbon of an 
order, for checking the deal. The board 
or table on which the game is played 
was OFr. eschequier (whence the game 
checkers) ; but the king's counsellors 
used such a table, with colored counters, 
in calculating the national revenues ; 
hence, the exchequer. Finally, check- 
mate is from Arab shah mat, the king 
is dead . . . Wish me a good game ! 

excitation, excite, excitement 
See exact. 

exclaim, exclamation. 
See claim. 

exclude, exclusive. 

.'iee close. 


See exact. 


See scourge. 


As bad money (the sociologists tell 
us) always chases out tlie good, here 
a less pleasant word has quite routed 
its harmless fellow. There was an early 
Eng. excrement (from L. excrescere, 
from ex, out + crescere, to grow — the 
present participle of which gives us 
crescent) which meant outgrowths of 
the body, i.e., the hair and nails. Thus 
Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors, II,ii,79, 
exclaims : 

"Why is time such a niggard of hair, 
being, as it is, so plentiful an excre- 
ment f" This has been supplanted by 
excrement, and excrete, from L. excer- 
nere, to sift out, from ex, out -f- cernere, 
cret — , sift. In the first sense, we still 
have the adjective excrescent. Cp. con- 


See excrement. 


See hussar. 

execute, executive, execution. 

See refrain. 


See prompt. 

See quaint. 


To exorcise is to chase out the demcms, 
by the sacred word : from the Gr. ex, 
out, 4- horkos, oath. 

To exercise is to let out the animals 
(hence, to keep them at work) : from L. 
ex, out, -}- arcere, to confine. The or- 
iginal sense is seen in the expression 
"Don't exercise yourself" or "Don't get 
exercised"'— tncsining "all worked up". It 
was first transitive; you always exercised 
someone else. When the word grew more 
pleasant in its implications, a person 
might just take exercise. 

exhibit, exhibitionism. 
See expose. 


See humble. 




See exact. 


See issue. 

See exercise. 


See zipper. 


See auction. 

See pelt. 


From the sense of paying out (see 
aggravate) this came to mean, use up, 
as to expend one's energy. Hence, the 
supplies and men an army can afford to 
sacrifice for a certain gain are expendable, 
even though the victory is expensive 
(paying out; hence, costly). 

To spend is aphetic from this word, or 
from OFr. desprendre : ex — , to pay out ; 
de — to pay down. 

experience, experiment, expert. 
See parlor. 


See inspiration. 

explain, explanation. 
.S"^^ saxophone. 

See complexion. 


This word has been borrowed from 
more pleasant places, to fit a new no- 
tion. It is from L. explodere, explo — 
(whence Eng. explosion), to break into 
clapping, from L. plaudere, plaus — , to 
clap (at the theatre). To applaud is 
to clap at (L. ap, from ad, to). Some- 
thing plausible, originally, was some- 
thing that deserved applause — true or 
not, it was put across. 

The origi|ial word was echoic of a 
sudden sound. 

See explode. 

See port. 


expose, exposition. 

See pose. To exhibit is to hold forth, 
from L. exhibere, exhibit — , to hold 
out (legally, to hold out to someone, to 
provide), from ex, ovA -\- habere , to 
have, to hold. Psychanalysts oppose ex- 
hibitionism and inhibitions (holding in; 

See pose. 

See plot. 


Things exquisite should be sought out 
— and are : from L. exquirere, exqui- 
sit — , from ex, out -|- quaerere, quest — , 
to ask, to seek. The meaning shifted 
from sought out to made with care, 
delicately done, therefore, exciting in- 
tense admiration. To seek into things 
is to inquire, from L. inquirere (enquire 
via OFr. enquerre) ; hence also inquisi- 
tion (the noun ending, — ion — ) and the 
adjective inquisitive. After the Inquisi- 
tion came the inquest, which first meant 
any legal inquiry, then specifically the 
coroner's inquest; until the 17th c. this 
was pronounced with the accent on the 
second syllable ; the in therefore dropped 
off, giving us the aphetic doublet quest, 
and the further noun question. 

A quire of paper (though used to 
answer questions) is via OFr. guaier 
(Fr. cahier), from L. quaterni, set of 
four, from quattuor, four: now, 24 
sheets (from four folded in six, as one 
folds a letter?). Choir, though some- 
times spelled quire, is from ME. quer, 
from OFr. cuer (Fr. choeur), from L. 
chorus, from Gr. choros, the band of 
singers and dancers in the early relig- 
ious festivals from which the drama 
sprang. Hence Eng. chorus; and the 
writing down of the dance pattern, 
choreography. Chorea is short for L. 
chorea Sancti Viti, Saint Vitus' dance. 
The small choir organ, however, is prob- 
ably a corruption of 17th and 18th c. 
chair organ, attached to the back of the 
organist's seat. More directly from the 
Greek is coryphee, from Gr. koryphaios, 
leader of the dramatic chorus, from 
koryphe, head. The root indicates a 
group, as in corybantes, the orgiastic 
dancers ; or in corymb in botany, from 
Gr. corymbos, cluster, head.. Alas, not 
every coryphee is exquisite! 




See tank. 


See torch. 


See improvised. 

See determine. 

extinct, extinguish. 

See distinct. 


See stipulate. 


5"^^ distraction. 


See uncouth. 


See intrigue. 

eyrie, eyry. 

See debonair. 


See Appendix II. 

See fib; cp. fate. 

fabric, fabricate. 
See defeat. 


Through Fr. face and Prov. fossa, face 
comes from L. fades, which first meant 
appearance, then visage. The schoolboy 
"with shining morning face" has the right 
of it : the word is from L. fac- as in 
facem, torch; hence, to shine, to appear. 
The face is that by which a thing shows 
itself; from this, the other meanings 
have developed, from facing an enemy to 
so behaving as to lose face. 

The facet of a diamond is a little face; 
but facetious does not mean full of facets 
(cp. supercilious) ; it is from L. facetus 
(from ? facere, to do), graceful, pleas- 
ing ; hence, pleasantly humorous. The 
faucet may be from L. fauces, throat ; 
but it seems to have referred to the peg 
that stops the gap before it was extended 
to the tube through which the liquid 

facet, facetious. 
See face. 

facile, facility. 
See defeat. 

fact, faction, factitious, factor, 
See affect ; defeat. 

See defeat. 


See wade. 

See Appendix II. 


See Appendix II. 


See insult. 

See turmeric, wheedle. 


This is a doublet of feint (OFr. 
faindre, feindre, faint, feint, from L. 
fingere, to pretend). Its early sense, 
after pretending, was cowardice, which 
might lead one to pretend — but also 
might lead one to faint like the Victo- 
rian lady. From this flows tiie meaning 
of the adjective, weak. "Faint heart 
ne'er won fair lady." 

The root of L. fingere, f ictus, to 
fashion, to feign, is fig, whence fig- 
inent; also figure, something fashioned; 
effigy, cp. caricature; fiction. 


See profane. 

fair maid. 

See month : February. 


See incinerator. 


Sec profane. 


Sec fell. 


See Appendix II. 


See turmeric. 


See livelihood. 


See fate. 




There is history hidden in this word, 
from L. familia, household, from famu- 
lus, servant. At one time, the man was 
master, the woman probably seized in 
conquest, she and all her offspring the 
sen'auts of the man. Indeed, the ser- 
vant, which means one serving, was 
first one preserved, from L. servare, to 
keep (Eng. preserve), to protect: thus, 
one kept from the slaughter of the con- 
quered race to work for the victor. A 
familiar was, in Shakespeare's time, a 
servant or a serving spirit. 

From the frequent habit of eating, a 
popular form of service is the equip- 
ment on the table; to set the table, Fr. 
servir ; to clear away, Fr. desservir; 
whence Eng. dessert (fruits and nuts 
brought in when all else is removed). 
Note that one's just deserts is, via OFr. 
deservir, from L. deservire, to serve 
well ; hence, to deserve. The wide 
stretch of desert, and the verb to de- 
sert, are via Fr. desert, deserter, from 
L. de'serer, desert — , to abandon, to un- 


See fanatic. 


Around a temple (L. fanum, whence 
Eng. fane) one is likely to find per- 
sons whose religious impulses make 
them seem overwrought. (Attend any 
revival meeting.) Such a person was 
called L. fanaticus, whence Eng. fanat- 
ic. (In baseball parlance, this has been 
shortened to fan.) The fan with which 
one blows (the heat away?) is from 
AS. fann, from L. vannus, a fan used 
in winnowing wheat. Cp. profane. 


See focus. 


See fanatic. 

See pylorus. 


See focus. 

See profane. 

See bombast. 



See circus, dollar. 


The theory of "economic determinism 
might gather force from this word. In 
the middle ages, a tenant contracted to 
pay a specified rental (as wh© does 
not?) for his ground. This was called 
L. firma (L. firmare, to fix, from 
firmus, Eng. firm). By simple transfer, 
the name for the rent was given to the 
object for which the rent was paid : L. 
firma, whence Eng. farm. Note, how- 
ever, that the farmer was originally the 
one that collected the rent; only in the 
15th c. did farmer shift to the man 
that worked the land. 

See dollar; cp. furbelow. 

See furbelow. 

fasces, fascinate. 
See Fascist. 


When the Roman builders went forth 
on their work, they often carried their ax 
tied in the middle of a bundle of rods. L. 
fascia, band, with which this was tied, 
gave the name fasces to the bundles, 
which became the symbol of authority 
of the local Roman magistrates. Fasces 
IS plural of L. fascis, a bimdle; the 
diminutive of this is L. fascina, a bun- 
dle; whence L. fascinare, fascinat — , 
to bind, whence Eng. fascinate, to hold 
spell-bound. By obvious suggestion — re- 
member the fable of the dying father 
who asked his sons to break a bundle 
of rods — the Fasces came to imply 
union ; hence it was adopted by the 
Fascist party of 20th c. Italy, which did 
not succeed in fascinating. 

The Romans developed the word I* 
fascinum, charm; and their term for the 
"evil eye" was oculus fascinus. We pre- 
fer to think of a more pleasant charm. 

See defeat. 


There was no escaping, the ancients 
believed, the doom that the gods had 
spoken; this was your fate (L. fas, the 
divine word, from fori, fatum, to 
speak) Things not in accord with the 
divine word were nefarious (L. ne, 



not). Thus fame is the report spread 
of a person ; if he is spoken of, but 
badly, lie becomes infamous (which was 
formerly pronounced with the accent on 
the second syllable, e.g. in Spenser's 
Faerie Queene, I 12,27). A fable (L. 
fabula) is a little talk. (L. fan, to 
speak, is related, through Gr. phemi, 
I say, with Sansk. hhash, to speak; 
bhan, to resound, and thus intertwined 
with Eng. ban, q.v.) Cp. incinerator. 


This measure was first used on land. 
It is common Teut., AS. faethm, the out- 
stretched arms. Used esp. of depth — 
Full fathom five thy father lies. 
Of his bones are coral made — 
it came as a verb to mean to plumb the 
depths, to probe their mystery ; hence, to 
make out the meaning of something 


See face. 


See insult. 

See turmeric, wheedle. 


See incinerator. 


This v/ord has been transferred from 
the cause to the feeling. It is cognate 
with Sansk. per, to go through; whence 
also Eng. fare; cp. dollar. Via. OE. faer 
it is from OS. far, ambush. The first 
sense in Eng. (in Beowulf) was of a dis- 
aster; from the thing undergone, the 
word shifted to the dread of the event. 
At first, it indicated a greater emotion 
than we now attach to the word, being 
the early Eng. equivalent of terror; cp. 
tcr.'te. The person that used to be af- 
f cared, afeard (from early a fear, to 
frighten), is now (a wholly diflferent 
word) afraid, q.V. 

feat, feature. 
See defeat. 


See vogue. 


•SV^ devil. 


See month. 



This is one of our earliest words, 
for it means cattle {cp. achieve), the 
primitive essential to community life, 
and the earliest instrument of barter — 
whence money {see below). In AS. 
feoh means both cattle and money ; 
likewise Goth, faihu; Teut. fchu; L. 
Pecu, cattle, and pecunia, money . ( Eng. 
pecuniary) ; Sansk. pasu, cattle. ME. 
fee-house is both a cattle-shed and a 
treasury. The OFr. form fiu, whence 
fief; LL. feodum, feudunt, from feu 
-(- OHG od, wealth, whence feud as in 
the feudal system. Fecu — also gives 
us peculiar, which first meant one's 
own, private; and peculate, from 
pecuhiri; peculat — , to take private 
property ; not related to speculate, 
q.v., from L. speculari, speculat — , to 
spy, from specula, watchtower. 

Feud, a constant enmity, influenced 
in spelling by the above, is OFr. faide, 
OHG. fehida, AS. faehth, enmity, AS. 
fah, whence Eng. foe. The present- 
participle of AS. feogan, to hate, is 
AS. feond, that which you hate, the 
enemy : G. feind, Eng. fiend, which in 
ME. meant any foe, but now means the 
arch-enemy, the devil. (This sense is 
not directly related to money.) The 
word money itself (OFr. inoneie, from 
L. inoncta, from monere, monet — , to 
warn: Eng. admonition, monitor; but 
also monetary) is derived from an 
epithet of Juno, as the goddess that 
gave warning ; at her temple was es- 
tablished the first Roman mint. Orig- 
inally mint (OE. mynet, from L, 
moneta) was a piece of money; then, 
money in general ; then, the place where 
money is coined. See coin. {Mint, the 
aromatic plant, is from OE. minte, 
from L. menta, ntentha — whence Elng. 
menthol — from Gr. minthe.) Thus the 
old expression "to hold in fee simple" 
(possessions held absolutely) came by 
a complex path. 


See fodder. 

feign, feint. 
See faint. 

felicity, felicitation. 
See turmeric. 


See buff. (As with other cauA-il 
forms, this is the past tense of the 
simple verb: fall, to go down; fell, to 




make go down : lie, to be down ; lay, 
to make be down: set, q.v.; sit.) Fall is 
common Teut., AS. feallan. Lie is 
common Aryan, AS. licgan; Gr. lexos, 
bed — no relation to lexicographer. Lie, 
to tell an untruth (AS. liogan), is 
commoner still. See felon. 


We often hear the term Fellow-Work- 
ers! but the first fellows were capitalists 
— even in the days of the feudal system. 
For the word is from OE. feolaga, from 
feoh, possessions, whence Eng. fee, q.v. 
-}- lag from OE. lag fan. to lay; and it 
meant a person that set down money in 
a cooperative enterprise. The use wid- 
ened until it meant a member of the same 
company or group (e.g., of a college, 
where the term fellow graJdually grew re- 
stricted, as opposed to scholar, to the 
graduate members : now in the United 
States often short for honorary fellow) ; 
then even all our fellow-men. 


This word has traveled in two paths. 
It is probably from L. fel, LL. fellonem, 
gall — this gives us also the adjective, fell 
chance. On the one side the word means 
an inflamed sore; on the other (first ad- 
jective, then noun) it refers to somebody 
full of bitterness at life; hence savage, 
striking back ; hence the present sense of 
of the term; as also felony, felonious. 


See filter, 

See marshal. 


See plot. Fend is aphetic for defend, 
to beat away. Offend is to beat 
against; thus, to take the offensive; 
figuratively, to be offensive. The two 
are linked in Robert Frost's (uninten- 
tional) pun (Mending Wall) : 

Before I built a wall I'd want to 

What I was walling in and walling 

And to whom I was like to give 



See tag. 

See dollar. 


See painter. 

ferns (wheel). 
See Appendix II. 

See circus ; cp. port. 

fertile, fertilize. 

See suffer, usury. 


See interfere. Of course the meaning 
was affected by the thought of a rule or 
ruler to measure length. 

festival, festive. 
See profane. 


Portuguese travelers along the 
Guinea shore bought little amulets from 
the natives, calling them feitigo, from 
L. facticius, manufactured. They were 
early called, in Eng., fetisso, directly 
from the Port.; the present form is 
via the Fr. fetiche. The meaning has 
shifted because of the native worship 
of such charms. 


See turmeric The root fe-, to produce 
offspring, is akin to the Aryan form 
bhwe-, from bheu-, to come into being; 
whence Eng. be. An animal that has 
brought forth young, and can bear no 
more, was called Eng. effete (from L. 
ef, ex, out -f fetus) ; the word is now 
used figuratively only, of persons, soci- 
eties, etc., that have lost their vigor. 

feud, feudaL 

See fee. 


See Appendix II. 


The prwnise of fidelity giver, (or im- 
plied) at bcthrothal is contained in the 
word fianci (masculine), fiancSe (fem- 
inine). The L. fides, trust, produced the 
adjective fidelis, faithful, the noun fideli- 
tat-, whence Eng. fidelity, and the verb 
fidare, to trust, whence also fiduc^ry. To 
trust to, ad 4- fidare, became LL. af fidare 
(whence Eng. affidavit, he has pledged 
his faith), whence OFr. after, from which 
was fashioned the noun a fiance,' affiance, 
the act of confiding, of having trust This 
was also an Eng. word; from it in turn 
was fashioned the Eng. verb affiance. 



meaning to pledge, then to pledge in mar- 
riage. The Fr. forms developed also 
from the simple verb, fidare, Fr. fier. to 
trust, from the past participle of which, 
the one pledged, is fianc^, fiancee. 


The word flask (for wine) is com- 
mon in many tongues, AS. flasce; It. 
fiasco; LL. fiasco, flascon — ; whence 
also flagon via ME. flakon. Such an 
article was common, and cheap. When 
the Venetian glassmakers, famed for 
their fine glass, blew some glass with 
a flaw in it, they put it aside far 
fiasco, to make a bottle: hence fiasco 
came lo represent the failure. 


See spouse. 


This word, now used of a child's 
fj^behood, is old and of obscured origin. 
Tt may be a back-formation from 
fable, as via fibble-fabble, nonsense. 
(Fable is from L. fabula, from fari, 
to speak.) Or it may be a shift from 
early Eng. fob, to cheat; Shakespeare 
uses fob off, to trick. This is a 
common word, from OFr. forbe, whence 
fourbe, cheat. 


See faint. 


See aflfect. 


The word Bosh! meaning ■ nonsense, 
has no connection with Gipsy bosh, 
a fiddle, being rather a natural ex- 
clamation of scorn; as the G. Possen, 
nonsense. Fiddle-de-dee, with the same 
di.sniissal of what the other person has 
said, lias a more meaningful story. It 
is e(|uivalent to an ironic "You don't 
say so!", being from It. Fedidio, Fe di 
Dio, by the Faith of God. Fiddle- 
sticks is a further corruption, based 
on the 'sound of the . first part, of the 
word, but also nonsense. 

fidelity, fiduciary. 
See fiancee. 


See fee. 



See pipe. 


See treacle. 

fifth column. 

Fifth columnists are sometimes the 
most dangerous soldiers of all. The 
term was first used in the Spanish 
Civil War, 1939, when a general of 
Franco's announced that he had four 
columns marching on Madrid, and a 
fifth column (spies, propagandists, 
saboteurs) already within its walls 
(For column, see colonel.) 


5"^^ rap. 

See fit. 

figment, figure. 
See faint. 

See fylfot. 


See marshal. 


Altliough practiced in Congress, this 
is a memory of the Spanish Main. 
The Eng. flyboat was a swift, light 
vessel — what the Eng. called a privateer 
but the Spanish, a pirate. In Sp., this 
became flibote, whence filibote; and the 
sailor a filibuster. From the man to 
the act ; and from piracy to congres- 
sional privateering. 

It is probably influenced by freebooier, 
Du. vrijbuiter. one that seeks free booty. 


This word is taken from the sub- 
stance used (OFr. filtrer, to sift through 
felt, from LL. filtrwn, feltrum^ felt). 
Whence comes the process of infiltra- 

To canvass a neighborhood is derived, 
in the same way, from ME. canevas, 
from LL. canabacius, from L. from Gr. 
kannabis, hemp, canvas ; the original 
sense was to sift tiirough canvas, or 
hempen cloth. 


See finance. 

This was originally a payment that 

settled matters, brought concern and 
accounts to an end (LL. financia. 



from finare, to pay a fine, from L. 
finis, a settled payment ; also, the end, 
whence fine, in both senses; final) 
From finitus, ended, well-rounded, 
came finite, and the sense of fine as 
complete, exquisite. By way of Fr. 
finir, finiss — comes Eng. finish. 
Shakespeare seems to have coined 
finical (King Lear, II,ii,19). Confine; 
define, to mark the ends or limits ; 
refine; affinity, the ends coming to- 
gether; infinite; are also from this 
source. L. finis is fidnis, a boundary, 
end, from the root fid, whence findere, 
fiss — to cleave, whence Eng. fissure, 
from Sansk. bhid, to pierce, break, 
whence Eng. bite; cp. sarcophagus. 


See finance. 


See pylorus. 

finical, finish, finite. 

See finance. 


This is most common Teut. ; cp. cur- 

See farm, infirmary. 


See finance ; dollar. 


See defeat. When you have a fit, you 
fight against yourself — from AS. fitt, 
conflict, whence Eng. fight. 


See number. 


The L. fingere, fict-, to fashion, had 
the root fig-; whence figment, figure ; cp. 
faint. But L. figere, fix-, meant to 
fasten ; whence Eng. fix. To fix is to 
make fast or stable; hence, to mend. To 
a fix (L. af, ad, to), to Prefix (L. pre, 
before), to suffix (L. suf, sub, under) 
are from this word. The chemist uses a 
fixative; the psychologist seeks the fixa- 
tion; and the Bible has made us familiar 
( L. crux, cruci-, cross ; cp. criss-cross) 
with the crucifix. 

fixation, fixative. 
See fix. 


flagellation, flageolet. 

See flamingo. 


See fiasco. 


See flamingo. 


See Dora. 


5"*'^ congress. 

flamboyant, flame. 

See flamingo. 


The flame that soars from your fire is 
from L. flamma — either from the verb 
flare, flat — , to blow ; or via an earlier L. 
flagma from flagrare, flagrat — , to blaze. 
From it we have Eng. inflame; inflam- 
mation (swollen and burning) ; flam- 
boyant, with flame-like curves, hence 

The first of the L. verbs gives us Eng. 
flare; inflation, a blowing into, hence a 
swelling, an increase — and also to deflate. 
Via the diminutive OFr. flageol, jlajol, 
Provencal flaujol, comes flageolet; and 
through OFr. flaute comes the flautist 
with his flute. 

The second verb gives us (L. con, 
com, together, used as an intensive) 
conflagration; and flagrant, blazing, hence 
glaring, scandalous. It may be related to 
L. flagrum, scourge, with the diminutive 
L. flagellum, whip; whence Eng. flagel- 
lation and the botanical Eng. flagellum. 
The blazing bird (from its color) is Sp. 
flamenco (also a dance), and Port, and 
Eng. flamingo. But Port, flamingo also 
meant a Fleming, a man from Flanders; 
and the bird may have been named (cp. 
Dutch) in mockery of the bright clothes 
of the Flemings. 


This is an echoic word, from the 
verb flap — indicating a sound between 
a flip and a flop. It has been applied 
to the limbs of the seal ; to the device 
used in Gulliver's Travels (on the isle 
of Laputa) to flap the absent-minded. 
Applied to the young wild duck and 
partridge, it made easy transfer to 
the human fledgling, trying her wings. 
We similarly speak of the flip behavior 
of an irresponsible miss ; though more 
serious considerations cluster around the 
heavier sound of flop. 




See flamingo. 


This was first an echoic word (like 
splash, smash, bash; cp. knick-knack), of 
the sound of a sudden dash of water. 
Then used of the sudden sweep of a 
sword, it was later used of a sudden 
streak of light; then, of anv sudden 
sweep, as, it came to me in a jlash. The 
adjective flashy has traveled along the 
same path; it now means something that 
makes a bright appearance — for a short 

To dash, as in to dash to pieces, is also 
echoic, with the sense of a sudden sweep. 


See fiasco. 


See flatter. {Flatter is of course also 
the comparative of flat: something even 
more jlat, if that be possible. For note 
that such comparatives are, strictly, im- 
possible; a thing is flat or it is not; it 
may be nearly flat, and more nearly flat; 
hut it cannot, strictly, be flatter— how- 
ever one may flatten it down I The same 
is true of correct, and many more.) 

See badger; congress. 


Among the many Eng. echoic words 
were flitter, flatter, flutter; cp. fleet. To 
flatter meant to flit about. But its light- 
ness influenced another word, from Eng. 
flat, a common Teut. word but probably 
from Fr. plat, from Gr. platys, flat, as 
in Eng. platypus; cp. vessel. The verb 
form, flat, to strike down or press down, 
developed the frequentative flatter, to 
press smooth ; hence, to stroke ; to caress ; 
this soon took on the figurative sense of 
stroking with smooth words, as does an 
arrant flatterer. 

See flamingo. 

See affliction, lobster. 


This is a common WG. form, MHG. 
vlus, sheepskin; cognate with L. ptu^ as 
in pluma, feather, whence Eng. plume. 
To plume oneself on something is to 
spread one's feathers, i.e., to put on airs. 
From the patience with which the sheep 
stands while it is being fleeced comes the 
use of the verb in the sense of stripping 
someone of his belongings, to cheat. 



See coquette. 


The old saying still waters run deep 
has its converse in this word. For it 
comes through two forms of the same 
root : OE. fleat, from earlier flaut, mean- 
ing shallow (farmers still speak of plow- 
ing fleet) ; and via fliotr, (whence also 
via OE. flyht, Eng. flight) meaning 
swift. There was a verb, still preserved 
in poetry, as time fleets by, from OE, 
fleotan (whence also float), meaning first 
to rest on the surface of the water ; hence, 
to float along, to glide away; the same 
word as a noun gives us that which floats 
on the water; quite early this was ex- 
tended from a boat to a group of boats 
under one command, the fleet. A diminu- 
tive of Sp. flota, fleet, is flotilla; both 
these words — the second more frequently 
— are used in English. 

A weak form of the verb fleotan, fho- 
tan, gives us Eng. flit; whence also flit- 
ter; an earlier frequentative (AS. flo- 
terian. from fleotan) gives us flutter. 
Similarly frequentative (from flick, a 
sudden movement with a light sound) is 
flicker; a noisier movement is flacker, 
now less used; these are all echoic. First 
meaning swift; then given to flights; 
then figurately, as with a flash (q.v.) of 
fancy, came tlie adjective flighty. 

The Aryan stem is plu^, to rain, whence 
Jupiter Pluvius. god of the rain, Eng. Plu- 
vial; and plo; to drift, whence Eng. flow 
and via OHG. fluot. OE. flod, Eng. flood. 
Which is water enough for one root I 


See accent. 

flick, flicker. 
See fleet. 

See affliction. 

flight, fiU;ht7- 
See afni 

liction. fleet 

flim-flam, flimsy. 
See whimsy. 


See flapper. 


See coquette. 

flit, flitter. 
See fleet 





See subject, 



See Congress. 

See subject, 


See flapper. 

See States. 

flotilla, flotsam. 
See subject, fleet. 

See flower. 

See flower. 

See affluent, 



The verb, to flower, helps show the 
origin of this word, a doublet of 
flourish, from OFr. florir, floriss — , 
from L. florere, from L. flos, flor, 
flower. The Aryan root is hhlo; whence 
also to blow (which means both to 
puff with wind and to blossom) : 
whence AS. blowan, blawan; ON. 
blom. whence Eng. bloom. The noun, a 
blow, is from the action of a sudden 
gust of wind. And flour is an al- 
ternate spelling, the thought being that 
it is the flower, or finest part, of the 
grain. Flow is not related; see af- 

Several flowers draw their names 
from their medicinal virtue, real or 
fancied. Sage is from OFr. sauge, 
from L. salvus, saved. Peony, from 
Paion, healer of the gods. Centaury 
was discovered by Chiron the centaur; 
hyacinth sprang from the blood of 
Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo Paion ; 
dianthus is the flower of Zeus (Gr. 
dies, Zeus, god, -f- anthos, anthus, an- 
themon, flower). 

The aster is from Gr. aster, star; 
the calendula supposedly bloomed at the 
calends (the first of the month, or 
perhaps "the little weather-glass ;" cp. 
dickey); campanula is L. little bell; 
crysanthemum is the golden flower (Gr. 
chrysos, gold) ; the daisy is from AS. 
daeges-eage, day's eye ; the dandelion is 

from Fr. dent de lion, lion's tooth ; the 
digitalis is named from its finger-like 
corolla (hence also digit) ; foxglove is 
perhaps a double corruption : fox, from 
folk (little folk, the fairies) -f g/o/^, 
from gloche, bell : fairy bell ; the 
geranium has a seed like the bill of a 
crane (Gr. geranas, crane) ; the gladi- 
olus is L. little sword (also m gladia- 
tor, swordsman) ; helianthus is the sun- 
flower (Gr. helios, light, sun), as the 
heliotrope turns toward the sun (Gr. 
trope, turning; cp. trophy); iris is the 
L. rainbow ; phlox, the Gr. flame. Cp. 
na.^turtium ; and visit the botanical 

The inceptive of L. florere, to flower, 
is florescere,- floruit, whence Eng. f lores- 
cent and via Fr. florir, floriss — , Eng. 
flourish. To blossom forth (L. ef, ex, 
out) is to effloresce, which must not be 
confused with deflower* 

fluctuation, fluent. 

See fourflusher. 

fluid, fludity, flume. 
See affluent. 

fluorescent, fluorine, fluorspar. 
See affluent; element. 

flush, flux. 

See fourflusher. 


See flamingo. 

See fleet. 


See affliction, lobster. 


Home is where the heart lies. But 
also, where the hearth, the early center 
of home life. Hence, the center or 
common point of anything. (L. focus, 
hearth). The L. is from Gr. phos, from 
phaos, light, from phainein, to show, 
appear, which gives us many Eng. 
words. Cellophane, a recent commer- 
cial coinage. Diaphanous (Gr. dia, 
through). Phosphorus (phos -{■ Gr.phor- 
os, bringing, from pherein, to bring, 
bear). Phantom, fantasy, fancy: an 
appearance. Hierophant, one who shows 
the sacred mysteries (Gr. hieros, 
sacred), a priest; cp. hieroglyphics. 
Phase, an appearance, applied first to 
the phases of the moon. Emphasis (Gr. 




em, en, in). Phaeton {Phaeton, driver 
of the chariot of the sun), a kind of 
carriage. Photograph is a light-writing, 
as telegraph is far-writing (Gr. tele — , 
far ■ telephone, far-sounding ; phono- 
graph, sound-writing). The elephant is 
an ivory-shower : shifting as from Coptic 
eboxi (L. ebur), ivory. 

A phenomenon (earlier phaenomenon, 
from tlie passive Gr. phainomai, to be 
shown, to appear) was originally any- 
thing that was perceptible to the senses ; 
its opposite is noumenon, a thin^ ap- 
prehended by the mind. But the sliding 
tendency — of a general term to ap- 
proach one end of the scale ; cp. com- 
plexion — has given phenomenon the 
meaning of an unusual or strange ap- 


This first meant food in general : OE. 
fodor, fodder; OE. foda, food; gradually 
the first was used for cattle; the second, 
for men. The root is OTeut. fothro-, 
Aryan pat-, to feed. The form food has 
no analogues in the other Teut. tongues, 
which have, however, words from OTeut. 
fodf'an, whence Eng. feed. From L. pas- 
cere, past-, to feed, comes Eng. pasture; 
cp. abbot; poster. 


See bed. 


See fee. 

See turmeric ; fetus. 


This word has developed from two 
sources. From OFr. fuler, (whence Fr. 
fouler), from L. fullo, Eng. fuller, 
comes Eng. full, to tread or trample 
cloth. Combined with this came the 
force of Fr. affoler, (from Fr. fol, 
fool, q.v.) adding to the idea of tram- 
ple that of defeat, thwart, foil. The name 
fuller's earth comes from the fact that the 
substance was used by fullers to clean 

From OFr. foil, foille, (whence Fr. 
feuille), from L. folium, leaf (Eng. 
folio, a book made from a leaf or sheet 
folded once) come the senses of foil 
as a leaf ; then the representation of 
a leaf in heraldry ; then anything flat 
as a leaf (imfoil) ; then such a metal 
placed behind a jewel to set it off — 
whence, anything that heightens an- 

other by contrast. The Fr. fleuret 
(Eng. floiveret) means a fencing foil; 
but the Eng. word may be an al- 
tered form of foin, to thrust, (from 
OFr. foinne, foisne, fouisne, from L. 
fusci>ui — cognate with piscina, from 
pisces, fish (Eng. piscatory) — a three- 
pronged fishing spear. 

Full, the verb above, is not related to 
the adj. full, which is a widespread 
word: OE. full; OTeut. fullo — . Akin 
to Sansk. piiru; Gr. polys (Eng. poly — , 
as in polysyllabic, etc.). Gr. plethos, 
plethor — , Eng. plethora), Gr. pleres, 
whence L. plere, pletus, to fill (Eng. 
complete, complement, replete, etc.), L. 
plenus, full (Eng. plenitude), L. pltis, 
plures, more, (Eng. plus, plural, pit*- 
rality, etc.) Cp. police. Which may 
easily be fulsome (abundant, plentiful; 
then plump, whence fat, coarse, 
offensive; now mainly of offensive 
affectation of affection) . 


See foil. 


See necromancy. 


See foil, necromancy. 


A common Teut. form. See congress. 


When you are fond of something, 
you are likely to be a bit foolish over 
it — which is just what the word im- 
plies. It is from ME. fanned, past 
participle of fonnen, to be foolish, from 
fon, a fool. But originally fonnen meant 
to be insipid ; Wyclif used it of salt 
that has lost its savor. Tracing fon 
back, we find that it meant first a 
virgin. From the usual opinion of 
housewives that have young girls work- 
ing for them (not to mention the 
thoughts of impatient youths) the word 
came to mean a simple or stupid girl ; 
thence, any fool. The verb was 
formed from the noun fon. Often the 
things we are fond of show we still 
merit the second sense of the word. 
From the simpleton's habit of sitting 
and holding something, the frequenta- 
tive fondle shifted to its present sense. 

See fond, swivel. 




See fodder. 


L. follis, literally a bellows, figura- 
tively a "windbag," whence Fr. fol, fou, 
whence Eng. fool. But the slang sense 
came roundabout : follis also meant 
scrotum (as do L. gerro, from Sic; 
and It. coglione, both also used to 
mean fool) ; so today we dismiss some- 
thing as foolish by crying "Aw, nuts!" 
'Nuts' and its forms (varying in mean- 
ing from 'crazy' to 'delightful': (to be 
'nuts about' means quite other than 
'Nuts to you!') has two and a half 
columns in Eric Partridge's "Diction- 
ary of Slang," 1938. In the theatre, the 
'nut' (that has to be cracked) is the 
initial sum required to produce a play. 
Cp. dunce. 


This large paper draws its name from 
the design of the fool's cap it used to 
bear. Similar paper bore the coat of 
arms of Charles I of England; in 
1642, Cromwell replaced this with the 
cap and belles of the fool. 

[The linotyper's slip, by which Crom- 
well mocked the cavalier Charles with 
belles instead of bells, is too pat for 
correction. But indeed Eng. bell was 
OE. belle, from a common LG. word, 
probably from OE. bellan, to bellow 
(make a loud noise), perhaps related to 
bellows, for which see Pylorus. Beau 
and belle are via Fr. from L. belltis 
and bella, beautiful. The middle ages 
derived L. bellum, war, from bellus, as 
a reminder that war is never beautiful. 
We draw from it Eng. belligerent, from 
bellum -\- gerentem, from gerere, to do, 
to wage.] 


See pylorus. 


This word is from bid, related to bead, 
q.v. Bid is a combination of two earlier 
words. AS. beodan meant to announce, to 
offer, to command. AS. biddan meant to 
request, to press upon (G. bitte, please). 
The prefix for- had the sense of opposi- 
tion or excess; cp. indenture; hence, to 
forbid is to prohibit. 

To prohibit is from L. pro-, in front, 
-f habere, to have, to hold. Its sense 
came somewhat as did that of prevent, 



See defeat. 


See manoeuver. 


See port, dollar. 


See indenture, dollar. 


See bottle. 

foreign, forest. 

See den, door. 

forfeit, forge. 

See defeat. 

forgive, forgo, forlorn. 
See indenture. 

form, formal, formaldehyde, formality, 
formication, formidable. 
See formula. 


This set of requirements to produce 
something is the diminutive of L. forma, 
shape, which directly gives us Eng. form. 
Hence, also formal, as in evening attire ; 
formality. The chemical formaldehyde, 
on the other hand, is short for formic al- 
cohol dehydrogenatum (alcohol with two 
atoms of hydrogen removed). The formic 
means related to ants, from L. formica, 
ant : the acid is in a fluid that ants emit. 
For other such forms, see warm. The 
format of a book is its shape, from the 
verb formare, format-, to shape. L. for- 
mido, dread, gives us the dreadful, for- 
midable things ; whereas something shape- 
ly is L. formosa, as the island. Com- 
pounds include deform and reformation. 


See indenture. 


See Appendix II. 


See saxophone. 


See dollar. 

fortify, fortitude. 

See saxophone. 




5"^^ remnant. 

See number. 

fortuitous, fortunate. 

See fortune. 


L. fors, fort-, meant chance, lot; 
whence Eng. fortune. The root is L. 
ferre, to bear; from it also came L. for- 
tis, strong (able to bear), whence Eng. 
fort; cp. saxophone. The Roman god of 
luck was For tuna; if Lady Luck was on 
your side, you were indeed fortunate. (If 
she favored the other fellow, it was for- 
tuitous: -ous, full oi...cp. supercilious.) 


See indenture. 

See fossil. 


In the study of fortifications, the word 
fosse is used of a ditch or other excava- 
tion, from L. fossa, from fodere, foss-, 
to dig. The adjective L. fossilis gives us 
Eng. fossil. This once was applied to 
anything dug from the earth, e.g., "that 
Irish fossil, the potato" ; but began in the 
17ih c. — when interest spread — to be lim- 
ited to the remains of plants and animals 
of past ages. It is applied contemptu- 
ously to persons whose ideas seem out of 
past ages ; widely, in other figurative 
ways. Emerson complains that "govern- 
ment has been a fossil; it should be a 
plant." He also says "language is fossil 
poetry" — this book, then, is a steam 

See fylfot, polecat. 

found, foundation, founder, foundry. 

See futile. 


See number. 


Several of the senses of this word — 
flush of blood to cheeks (influenced 
by blush, from AS. blyscan to shine, 
from blysa, torch, fire) ; flush of vic- 
tory (influenced by the idea of flesh- 
ing one's sword); flush with funds; 
and a flush of cards — are clear from 
its origin : from Fr. flux, from L. 


fluxus, flow, from f lucre, fluxi, 
fluct — to flow ; whence also Eng. flux, 
fluent, fluctuation; cp. affluent. Since, 
in the game of poker, it requires a flow 
of five cards of the same suit to 
make a flush, a fourflusher is one that 
cannot make good what he pretends. 


This is common Teut., OE. fugel, fu- 
gol; dissimilated from fluglo-, from the 
root flug, to fly ; cp. lobster. 


This is a common Teut. beast, MHG. 
vuhs; L. vulpes; cp. vulpine. The early 
Teut. root is puk-, probably related to 
Sansk. puccha, tail ; the fox named from 
its flowing tail ; cp. squirrel. But the 
reputation of the animal for trickery was 
early; OX. fox meant fraud; hence, to 
fox, and foxy. 


See flower. 

fraction, fracture, fragile, fragment. 

See discuss. 


Sec dollar. 

France, franchise, frank. 

See free. 


See leviathan. 


See dollar. 


See free. 

fraternity, fratricide. 

See shed. 

fray, frazzle. 

See afraid. 


See inn. 


The man that calls himself heart- 
free is not talking in terms of origins. 
Free (OF..freon, to love, cognate with 
Sansk. priya, dear : thus OE. freond, 
whence Eng. friend) meant beloved. In 
the early home were those one loved, 
and the slaves — hence free came to mean, 
not enslaved. Note that slave (Fr. esclave. 


French leave 


from LL. Sclavus) is the name of the 
central European race, the Slav or 
Slavic, which in their own tongue 
means "glory ;" but they had been con- 
quered, and from them the Romans 
and even the Franks drew their ser- 
vants. Hence frank, from the tribe 
that in tiie 0th c. conquered Gaul and 
gave its name to France: free, open. 
From this come franchise and en- 
franchise (Fr. affranchir, to set free) ; 
also the application of frank as the 
privilege of jree mailing. Frankincense 
(OFr. jranc encens: noble incense . . .) 
from incendere, incensus, to blaze, to 
set afire, from in, intensive + ^aw^^''^* 
to glow. The inceptive of this, incan- 
descere, gives us incandescent. To in- 
cense is to set one's temper blazing. 

French leave. 

See Dutch. 


This It. word for fresh (cp. inn) is 
short for in fresco: in the fresh (plaster), 
hence a style of painting on plaster not 
quite dry, with water colors. The phrase 
al fresco, however, implies in the fresh 


See inn. 


Sec indenture. 

fricasse, friction, 

See afraid. 

See week. 


See free. 


Sec cloth. 


See inn. 

front, frontier. 

See effrontery. 


The end of this word is a sample 
of the power of association; it has no 
relation to piece (which, though found 
in Fr. piece, is probably of Celtic 
origin, meaning a bit ; cognate with Fr. 
petit, little). Frontispiece is from Fr. 

frontispice, from LL. frontispicium, 
looking at the brow, from frons, front — , 
brow -(- spicium, from specerc, .to look ; 
cp. auction. At first it meant tlie front 
of a building, esp., a decorated en- 
trance or the decoration over the door. 
From this, it was applied to the first 
or title page of a book ; then to an 
initial illustration, or a preface. Mil- 
ton, in Paradise Lost, III, 506, speaks 

The work as of a Kingly Palace Gate 
With frontispice of Diamond and Gold. 


See effrontery. 

frugal, fruit. 
See peach. 

See addle. 


See devil. 

full, fuller's earth, fulsome. 

See foil. 

fume, fumigate. 

See month : February. 


See changeling. 


You do have fun when near this 
fellow, for his main stay (if fie can 
be said to stay) is the circus. He is, 
in more common parlance, a tight- 
ropcwalker, from L. funis, rope -\-am- 
bulare, to walk; cp. ambulance. Fun, 
funny, are related to ME. fon; cp. 
fond. Funiculus, a little rope, is used 
in several senses in Eng. A funicular 
railway is one in which the cars arc 
tugged (as up a mountain) by a cable. 


See sponge. 

See funeral. 

fundament, fundamental. 

See funeral, futile. 


L. fundus meant bottom ; Eng. fundus 
is used in anatomy for the base of vari- 
ous stnjctures; also, earlier, fund. But 
fund (now from the L. via Fr. fond. 



fonds) developed the figurative sense of 
a basis to draw upon, a source of supply ; 
this is the present meaning. EHrectly 
from the L. noun form fundamentum 
comes fundament ; thence, the adjective 
fundamental. Possibly from this root 
came L. funus, funer-, ground for burial ; 
hence (via the adjective, L. juneralis, Fr. 
funerailles), Eng. funeral. A further ad- 
jective form gives us funereal, gloomy as 
a burial ; here, also, the now rare funest 
and funestation. Insurance makes safe — 
ensures — a fund for a funeral. 
Cp. futile. 


See sponge. 


See funambulist. 


If you hit the nerve that crosses tlic 
bone at your elbow, you will experience 
a sharp tingling. Why that is funny 
is not easy to see ; but as the name 
for the bone is humerus, it does not 
take mucii change to reach the pun 
humorous, and the common name for 
the spot. L. humerus, shoulder, is from 
Gr. auios, shoulder, whence omoplate, 
(Gr. plate, broad surface, blade, whence 
plateau) omosternum, etc. For humor- 
ous, cp. complexion. 


Here is a case of a thing's being named 
from its purpose. For fur is directly 
from OFr. forre, fuerre, sheath, case 
(possibly also Teut., OHG. fuotar, 
sheath; ON. fothr, lining). First it 
meant the lining of a garment; then, it 
was applied to the animal skins used for 
such lining. Note that furacious does 
not mean furbearing, but thievish, from 
L. furax, furac-, thief, from L. furari, to 
steal. Also furious means full of fury, 
from L. furia, from furere, to be mad. 
The first meaning was a tumult of mind 
approaching madness ; this holds, except 
for figurative uses, like the fury of the 


That gay old sheet The Spectator 
rebuked the etymologists (No. 478, 1712) 
who suggest that "the farthingale was 
worn for cheapness, or the furbelow 
for warmth." Frills and furbelows! 
Garments gone by! This flighty flounce 
was earlier called a falbala; its origin 
is in some gay exclamation, such as 
fal-lal-la. Farthingale, the wide petti - 


coat of your grandmothers' grand- 
mothers, has a longer story. It is 
earlier vardmgale, from Fr. vertugalle, 
vertugadin; there is an It. form gnard- 
injante. Krom these comes the sugges- 
tion that tlie name is figurative : Fr. 
verlu gardicn, guardian of virtue — the 
skirt being too stiff and wide for 
anyone to come nearer than arm's 
length ! Fuller, in his Worthies of 
England, suggests it as from Vertu 
and Gall, as a wanton seeks to cover 
her shame with its wide protection. It 
is, actually, from Sp. verdugado, a 
hooped petticoat, from verdugo, a rod, 
from verdc, a green twig. Green and 
therefore springy twigs made the best 
supports until whalebone was introduced. 

See fur. 


This term is from farming, and 
means long as a furrow. But how 
long is a furrow? The answer is, 
forty poles. A pole is the width between 
two furrows, and was 5^2 yards. The 
reason for these figures is that a legal 
acre was 40 poles long and 4 poles 
wide, so that the length of such an 
acre field (220 yards) was just an 
eighth of a mile. This made calcula- 
tion easy for the early farmer. (For 
acre, see saunter.) 


We are careful to say that a private 
is granted a furlough; an officer takes 
a leave. But the two- are the same 
word : furlough was earlier furloff, 
from Du. ver lof, for leave; OE. 
leaf, permission; by your leave. {Leave, 
as trees in spring, is from ME. leve 
from lef, leaf.) This is related to 
lief, from AS. lief, from AS. leaf, 
dear, a common Teut. word ; (ioth 
liufs; L. lubet, it delights; AS. lufu, 
whence Eng. love. Sansk. lubh, to de- 
sire . . . But note that what we like, 
we think is just so; hence, OHG. 
gilouban; AS. geliefan, whence ME. 
beleven, whence Eng. believe. Thus we 
believe in what we love. L. lubet has a 
variant libet, it pleases, whence L. libido, 
libidin — ', strong desire; from this come 
our Eng. libidinous and the Freudian 

The verb leave is from OE. laefan, 
to leave behind, to bequeath (causal of 
belifan, to remain). But if we leave 
something behind, we go away ; hence 



the verb leave has both meanings. 
Thus when an officer's leave (noun: 
permission) has ended, he leaves (verb: 
goes away from, leaves behind) his 
family. He also leaves (bequeaths) 
them his fortune; hence the old saying, 
love 'em and leave 'em ! 

fuse, fusel, fuselage, fusil. 

See futile. 


See bombast. 


"The mouth of fools poureth forth 
folly." Bacon (6th essay) says: "As 
for talkers and futile persons, they are 
commonly vain." futile first meant to 
pour forth ; then was weighted with 
the observation that those who talk the 
most have the least worth saying. It 
is from L. futilis, pouring, from fun- 
dere, fudi, fus — to pour. (But note 
that even in L., futilis had come to 
mean leaky ; thus the crew that went 
to sea in a sieve truly found their ef- 
forts futile.) The root is fud, pour. 
L. fusilis, able to pour, molten, gives 
us fuse ; confuse, -to pour together ; 
profuse (L. pro, forth) ; infuse; ef- 
fusion, diffuse (L. dif, away, apart) ; 
and a blood transfusion (L. trans, 

Also from fundere come foundry 
{found, past of find, is from 
OHG. finden, fand, f widen. Found, 
to establish, lay a foundation, is from 
OFr. founder, from L. fundare, from 
fundus, base, whence Eng. fundamental; 
from this source, also, come pro- 
found; and founder, to go to the 
bottom) ; confound; refund, to pour 
back — often a futile gesture. A fuse, 
as a tube with explosives, for setting 
off a charge, is short for earlier fusee, 
fusel, from LL. focik, a steel for 
kindling fire, from L. focus, hearth ; 
see focus. The first use in Eng. was 
of the steel for the old flint-lock gim; 


fusil was then used of the gun itself, 
whence fusillade, rapid volley of gun- 
fire; and fuse was used of the ig- 
nitor. Fuse, however, is influenced by 
fusee, fuzee, which (from OFr. fusee, 
a spindleful, from LL. fusare — , fusat — , 
to use a spindle, from L. fusus, spin- 
dle—probably related to Gr. sphendone, 
2l slinc and Sansk. spandana, quivering, 
throbbing, from Sansk. spand, to throb) 
has been applied to several spindle- 
shaped objects, from the fusee that 
sets off an explosion to an impreg- 
nated paper match and a "conoidal 
spirally grooved pulley" that helps your 
watch keep time. Fuselage, the spin- 
dle shaped (cigar-shaped) body of an 
airplane, is taken directly from the Fr., 
like chauffeur, q.v., and garage. Fusel 
oil, obtained from liquor insufficiently 
distilled, is from G. fusel, bad liquor. 


This early Eng. word for gammadion, 
swastika {cp. monk) may have been a 
combination, fill fool, from the pattern 
used to fill the foot of a painted window. 
It may, however, be file-foot, the foot 
files by (as does the leg in Eng. triskele, 
triskelion, from Gr. tri. three -f skelos, 
leg: the pinwheel of three legs awhirl). 

Eng. file is from two sources, one 
doubled. OE. feol gives us the file with 
the surface that is made rough to smooth 
other surfaces. L. filum, thread, moved 
into Fr. fil ; whence the meaning thread, 
then a cord (later, iron spike; still later, 
filing cabinet) for keeping records in or- 
der ; while it also moved into Fr. file, 
whence the meaning a succession, as of 
things in single file. (There is still 
another OE. fylon, earlier fulo, whence 
fold; this gives us Eng. defile, to render 
foul — not to be confused with defile from 
L. de- down, -\- filum, a place where one 
must move in single file, or such a column 
or motion. To defile a thing is inter- 
linked with the notion of trampling on 
it; ME. defoilen being traced to OFr. de- 
fouler; cp. foil. But this sense is not re- 
lated to fylfot). 



See gibberish. 


Here is a word that, though known 
for almost a century (recorded in 
1886, but spoken earlier), has re- 
cently swung into wide use. Its origin 
is as obscure as the reason for its sudden 
prominence. It may be from Sc. gadge, 
a form of gauge; or from Fr. gachette, 
a small hook : apparently both words 
were used of various handy devices. 

See element. 


This may be a new slang term ; 
but it is an old word : Norw. gagga, 
to bend backwards, as a bird might 
twist its neck, whence Icel. gagr, bent 
back. It is probably a reduplicated form 
of ga, go, meaning to keep going about, 
to bend from the course. It gives us 
the Eng. nautical term yaw. 


See mortgage. 

gain, gainly, gainsay. 
See again. 


See runagate. 


See valentine. 


5*^^ sangrail. 


See delight. 

See valentine. 

gallery, galley. 
See galligaskins. 


The ship, galley, and the gallery are 
intertwined: Fr. galere means galley; It. 
galera, galley, It. gaUeria, L,L. galeria, 
gallery. The origin is G., probably from 
kalon, wood; thus balcony is It. balcone, 
halco, scaffold, OHG. halcho, Eng. balk; 
cp. bulk. 

The Eng. gallipot is thus named be- 
cause brought (from Italy) in galleys. 
Caskins, gascoynes, were hose in the style 
of Gascony. Worn by the sailors of the 
galleass (a large galley) and the galley, 
they became known as galligaskins. 

See element. 


Sec quarter. 


The story of this word takes us to 
what Falstaff babbled of when he 
died. It appears also, in ME., as 
walopen, from OFr. galoper, waloper. 
Its source may be f^uiid in the ON. 
wall-hopp, a gallop, irom wall (AS. 
weald, whence ME. xvald, whence Eng. 
zvold, a A^oods or a field), f ield -{- 
hopp, whence Eng. hop : thus, a f ield- 
hopping or bounding. The verb, to 
gallop, was formed from the noun. 
The word, however, may be imiiative 
in origin, of the clop-chp, ghp-glop 
beat of horse hoofs. Its MHO. form, 
walop, suggests as a possible source O 
Prankish wala hlaupan, to leap well. 
Op. lobster. 


This was a common Teut. form, ME. 
galwes; also used in the singular, AS. 
gealga. The same instrument was used 
in France ; the term applied to it, from 
Fr. gibe, a staff, was the diminutive gibet, 
a cross-handled staff; the shape suggested 
the transfer ; hence, Eng. gibbet. The 
jib of a sailing-vessel was hung from 
the masthead; hence its name (though 



some suggest its relation to Eng. gybe, 
to shift course, as then the jib swings — as 
does the gallows-pendaint in the wind.) 


Enough is as good as a feast. This 
sounds like an Irish proverb; and 
it is condensed into the one word 
(originally Iwo) galore: from Ir. go 
leor, to suffiency. 


See Appendix II. 

gamb, gams (slang), gambit, gamble, 
gambol, game, gammadion, gammon. 

See monk. 

The swastika is called a gammadion 
because it is made of the Gr. letter gam- 
ma r~ used four times. Cp. fylfot. 


This word is formed like alphabet 
(Gr. alpha, a + beta, b) from two 
symbols ; gamma was the sign for 
the note below A in the medieval scale, 
and ut, the first tone of the scale. 
Originally it corresponded to our G on 
the lowest bass stave. In the 11th c, 
it was applied to the whole scale ; 
then, to the entire range of possible 
notes — or any range. The names for 
the notes of the scale are said to 
have been taken, by Guido d'Arezzo, 
from the accented syllables in the fol- 
lowing hymn stanza : 

Ut queant laxis r^sonare fibris 

Mira gestorum /amuli tuorum 

So\\t polluti /abii reatum, 

6'ancte /ohannes. 
As the last note of the scale repeats 
the first, do (abbreviation for ditto, the 
same) was used, and replaced the uglier 

See yacht. 


A gang is a group that is going to- 
gether, from OE. gangan, to go. It 
was first applied to a group of work- 
men, then to prisoners (chain gang) ; 
thence, to any group gathered for evil 
purposes. For the ending, see spinster. 

See subjugate. 

See cabal. 



Once on a time this verb meant mere- 
ly to sift, esp. to sift spices. In Sp. 
garbillo is a sieve ; apparently the word 
traveled through Arstb. gharbala, to sift, 
from yhirbal, a sieve, from LL. cribel- 
lum, diminutive of cribrum, a sieve, re- 
lated to cernere, cret — , to sift, whence 
Eng. discern (L. dis, apart). Discrete 
and discreet are doublets ; the latter 
shifted its meaning from passive to ac- 
tive : not separate, but able to separate, 
to distinguish. Crib, a common Teut. 
word for box, hut, was first a manger 
where animals were fed, and may come 
from this source: where the sifted grain 
was put. But from sifting, or selecting 
parts, the word came (from frcLiuent 
practice, no doubt) to mean the select- 
ing of parts that suited one's own pur- 
pose, even though these were not fair 
or representative parts ; hence the pres- 
ent meaning. 

From the idea of using a crib (box, 
stall : the sheperd in the mystery play 
hides the stolen lamb in the infant 
Jesus' crib) as a place to hide things, 
came the meaning, to cheat, to steal ; 
hence also, from the hidden store of 
cards, the game cribbage. The L. cer- 
nere is from Gr. krinein, to judge, 
whence Gr. krisis, the decisive moment, 
whence Eng. crisis; whence both a crit- 
ical illness and a critical remark, and 
criticism. From the sense of judging, 
rendering a verdict, comes L. crimen, 
whence Eng. crime; also with the pre- 
fix dis, discriminate. You should try 
to discern what is garbled. 

Gr. krinein, to sift, to separate, to 
judge, appears also in Eng. endocrine 
glands (Gr. endon, within). Gland is 
from OFr. glandre (which form reap- 
pears in the disease Eng. glanders) from 
L. glandula, diminutive of L. glans, 
gland — , acorn. The pituitary gland is 
direct from L. pituita. mucus. And hor- 
mones are named from their stimulating 
effect, directly from Gr. hormon, present 
participle of horman, to urge on. 


See Appendix II. 


FranQois Rabelais wrote The Horrific 
Life of the Great Gargantua in 1534, 
to be set before his Pantagruel, 1532. 
Gargantna's father's name, Grandgou- 
sier, means great gullet; and Gargantua 
may be related to gargle and gargoyle; 



cP- giggle. Gargantua was originally a 
helpful giant in French folklore. 

See gorge; slang; giggle. 


See giggle. 


See onion. 

See pommel. 


This word first meant to fortify or 
to give warning, from OFr. garnir, 
garniss — , from guarnir, from warnir, 
from OE. warnian, to take warning; 
ME. wernen, to warn. Then it was ap- 
plied to equipping with arms ; and later 
was reserved for the more elaborate or 
fancy armour ; hence, to deck out, to 
adorn. Hence garniture is still a fancy 
word for furnishings. In the sense of 
warning, to garnish was used for notice 
of the intended collection of a debt, 
whence the victim was the garnishee; 
this has since become a verb, to gar- 
nishee one's salary. May j'ours be 
spared ! 


Watch-towers on buildings came often 
to be just windows in the top storey. 
Hence OFr. guerite, watch-tower, from 
OFr. guarir, warir, to watch — of Teutonic 
origin, from OHG. form ivarjan, to 
guard; cp. warrior — led to OFr. garite 
and the Eng. garret of today. From the 
same Teut. form, through OFr. warison 
to guerison and garison, we have an Eng. 

See garret. 

See carouse. 


This was originally a . shank-piece. A 
Celtic word, Welsh garan, shank, (related 
to gamb. ham, q.v.) was taken into the 
Fr. jaret, garet, a diminutive, meaning 
the bend of the knee. The band tied 
around there was OFr. jartxer, whence 
Eng. garter. In the year 1344, King Ed- 
ward II of England was dancing with the 
Countess of Salisbury (so the story runs), 
when her garter slipped off. The King 
lifted it, placed it on his own leg, say- 


ing Honi soit qui mal y pense. Shame 
upon whoso thinks ill of this; and found- 
ed the highest order of English knight- 
hood, the Order of the Garter. See 
apathy {Order of the Bath). 


This seems to be the only English 
word invented, made out of thin air. 
It was coined by the Dutch chemist, van 
Helmont, d. 1644. Possibly there was 
in his mind some sense of the word 
chaos (Gr. chaos, abyss), the primal 
emptiness out of which order (Gr. cos- 
mos) was made. Cp. police. 


See Appendix II. 

See gastronomy, necromancy. 


Gr. notnos {cp. number) was the order 
or law ; hence, astronomy, the ordering 
of the stars ; cp. disaster. Put a g in front 
of Gr. aster, star, and you have Gr. 
gaster, gastr — , belly ; hence gastronomy. 
The word was first used (in Fr. gastron- 
omic) as the title of a poem, by Ber- 
choux, 1801 ; but gastric fever came 
much earlier, as also Eng. gastrimargy, 
"belly-madness" (Gr. margos, raging), 
gluttony : Rabelais ( Motteux' Eng. trans- 
lation) speaks of gastrolaters. Also cp. 
necromancy. The scientific name of the 
large muscle of the calf of the leg. which 
makes it belly, is gastrocnemius, from Gr. 
gastr — -|- kneme, leg. (This is not re- 
lated to knee, which is AS. cncotv, the 
Gr. cognate of which is gony; Sansk. 
janu; L. genu, whence Eng. genuflection; 
cp. accent — gnu is native Kaffir qnu. 
Hence also AS. cneowlian, Eng. kneel.) 


See runagate. 


See dexterity. 

gaudeamus, gaudy. 

See young. 

See subjugate. 


See Appendix II. 

To degauss (World War II) 
equip a vessel with protection 
magnetic mines. 

is to 




See cloth. 


See Appendix II. 

gawk, gawky. 

See dexterity. Gow^, meaning to stare 
foolishly, is corrupted from go7vk, from 
OE. geac, cuckoo, the bird being deemed 
foolish. Cp. cuckold. 


geography, geometry, geophagy. 
See sarcophagus ; absurd ; algebra. 


See cloth. 


See States. 

See flower. 

See yacht. 

See gazebo. 

gazebo, gazabo. 

The peeping turret on an English 
18th c. estate was given its name from 
a pseudo-Latin formation on the word 
gaze, a common Teut. word, Sw. gasa, 
to gape. The American slang gazabo 
is probably from Mex. gazapo, "smart 



When folks first began to have coins 
to spend, they must have felt as though 
they were walking on air — they gave 
the coins the names of birds : eagle, 
raven ; cp. rap. An Italian small coin 
was called gazetta, magpie. When news- 
papers were first printed, it seems folks 
were charged a gazetta for reading 
them ; the word was transferred to the 
paper, and is now preserved in the 
N. Y. Police Gazette. Dickens calls a 
halfpenny a magpie; in 18th and 19th 
c. Eng. slang, it is a mag. 

gelatin, gelatine. 
See aspic. 


Take a look at one. It derives its name 
from its appearance, L. gemma, bud. The 
original sense is retained in botany, Eng. 
gemma, gemmation, gemmiferous (L. 
ferre, to bear) and more. 

general, generous, genius, genteel, 
gentile, gentle. 
See racy. 


Sec gastronomy. 

See element. 


One way of winning an election is to 
arrange the district limits so that your 
party has a majority living within it. 
This trick was managed by Governor 
Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, U. S. 
A., about 1812. (It has been utilized 
since.) On the map, one such tortuous 
district looked like a salamander, where- 
upon came the happy suggestion of 


Short for G. G^heime 5'<aats/»olizei, 
Secret State Police. Cp. Dora. 

See joke. 

See ghost. 


The early use of this word was in the 
sense of a person's spirit, as still in giv- 
ing up the ghost; hence, that spirit after 
it left the body, took a ghostly form, and 
— if there was unfinished business — came 
back in accord with the rules about not 
crossing running water, departing on 
the stroke of twelve, and the other laws 
ordained for ghosts. That it was com- 
monly deemed a dangerous thing is shown 
by the origin of the word ; OE. gast and 
gaest are from a root OTeut. gaistjan, 
to tear or to terrify. And that which 
terrifies is ghastly. In ghosth wise, the 
origin of haunt is hid in darkness. The 
h in ghost was added by Caxton (first 
Eng. printer. 1422? — 91) but did not be- 
come iixed till about 16(X). It belongs in 
ghotil . from Arab, ghul, from a root that 
means to seize. 

See racy. 


5"^^ ghost. 




Gaea (classical goddess of earth) and 
Uranus (qv., god of heaven) had sons 
called Gr. gigantes (one was Gr. gigas), 
who warred with the gods, and were 
finally overthrown, with Zeus (Jupiter) 
established on Mt. Olympus. Thus the 
giant Antaeus drew constant strength 
from his mother; Hercules had to lift 
him from the earth and hold him in the 
air, to overcome him ; hence, one with 
Antaean (Antean) powers. After the 
war, the giants were punished in various 
ways ; see atlas. 

Our Eng. gigantic springs from this 
word ; via OFr. gaiant, geant, it was 
shortened to Eng. giant. The Bible bor- 
rowed the classical word, in Latin, to 
apply to men of very great size and 
strength ; hence, its widespread use in 
fairy tales {Jack the Giant Killer) and 
elsewhere today. 


This word, earlier than the verb to 
gibber, is partly imitative of the soimd 
of nonsense, but was influenced by the 
11th c. Arabian alchemist, Geber, who, 
to avoid death on charge of dealing 
with the devil, wrote his treatises in 
apparent nonsense. Other imitative words 
of the same general mood are jabber, 
gabble, giggle. 


This projection at the gateway to the 
middle sea was named from its Arabic 
conqueror, Tarik : Jabalu't tarik, Tarik's 
Mountain, whence Jibal Tarik, whence 
Gibraltar. The ending has been given 
an English sound; in It. it is Gibilterra 
(from terra, land). 


See Appendix II. 

See enthusiasm. 

See giant. 


.S'^^ gibberish. There was also an early 
Eng. gaggle; not to mention gargle 
and gurgle; though note that L. gur- 
gulio is windpipe. Gargle in Fr. is gar- 
gouiller; whence, from the sound and 
the distorted faces, Eng. gargoyle, the 
mouth of which was used as a spout to 
let rainwater off the roof. 


See Appendix II. 

See drink. 


The shape of the ginger root explains 
the word : from AS. gingiber, from 
LGr. ziggiberis, from Sansk. srngaverck, 
antler body. 

Gingerly is another word, from the 
gait of the lady, from OFr. gensour, 
comparative of gent, dainty, from L. 
genitus, bom in the (noble) family, 
from gens, family ; cp. racy. 


See gyp. 


You may guess freely here ; Brewer 
lists several choices. There is gar- 
rula, a chatterbox (surely appropriate 
enough!), from L. qarrire, to prattle. 
Then L. gerula is a nurse; AS. ceorl, a 
churl; Brewer himself suggests girdle, 
worn by maids and loosed at the mar- 
riage; also gull (impolitely I). The word 
is. we can at least say, a diminutive: 
perhaps of Gr. koure, lass ; perhaps a 
corruption of darling, from AS. deorl- 
ing. A girl can keep any boy guessing. 


See glad. 

See graze. 


L. glaber, glabr — . meant smooth; 
whence Eng. glabrous, smooth in the 
sense of hairless. The diminutive Eng. 
glabella is the spot between the eye- 
brows. The cognate OHG. glat, smooth, 
came into OE. as glad. As things 
smooth (look at any bald head) are 
shiny, the sense shining developed; this 
gradually took the place of the other. 
Then, applied figuratively, it meant per- 
sons of a shining disposition; hence the 
present application — as when Father Di- 
vine interrupts his speeches to cry out, 
apropos the general state of things : 
"Aren't you glad!" 

gladiator, gladiolus. 

See flower. 

gladstone (bag). 

.S"^^ Appendix II. 




The glamour girl of today (always 
spell glamour with the u, because of its 
relation to I'amour) exercises her potent 
magic. Why not; that's the meaning of 
the word. But, with the second letter 
changed, pupils drone over it in school. 
Gr. gramma, letter, whence graphein, to 
write (thus telegram and telegraph are 
the same; cp. focus), was associated 
in the middle ages with the magic arts, 
gramarye. By dissimilation, this be- 
comes glamour. In the prosaic range, 
it remained grammar. If you have the 
first, you little need the second. 

See garble. 

glass, glaze. 

See electricity. 

Sec globe. 


L. f/lobus meant sphere ; L. glomus, 
ball. Both words (as globe and glome) 
have con^.e into Eng., with their diminu- 
tives, globule and g'omerule; but the 
second has been used in scientific com- 
binations only, except for the compounds, 
as conglomeration. This carries an idea 
of rolled together into a coherent mass ; 
a conglomerate e'laiid is composed of sev- 
eral conglobate glands witliin one mem- 
brane. The tiny creatures whose ancient 
bony structure produced the chalk cliffs 
of England ( Huxley — cp. agnostic — uses 
them as the basis of his famous lecture, 
"On a Piece of Chalk", 1868) are called 
globigerinae ; they are an infinitesimal yet 
significant part of this great round ball 
we call the terrestrial globe. 

To gloam was to gleam (AS. glom 
and gleam; AS. glomung gives us gloam- 
ing) ; it is related to glow, from AS. 
glowan. To gloom was to be sullen ; a 
variant was to glum; both of these words 
were verbs before they were used as ad- 
jective and noun. There was then an ad- 
jective glumpy, akin to grumpy : this is 
echoic in origin, like grumble' aitid grunt 
and the exclamations humph and hrrmp! 
It takes all sorts to cover a globe. 

globigerinae, globule, glome, gloom. 
See globe. 


comes Eng. gloss, lustre, also as in to 
gloss over. But Gr. glossa, tongue (cp. 
laugh) came to be used in the sense of 
mother tongue, langfuage. Hence a gloss 
to a text ; and the wordbook, the glossary. 

See globe. 


See clam. 


See clam. 


See globe. 

glut, glutton. 

See laugh. 

-, glycol. 

glycerine, glycero— , glycc 

Sec clam. 

gnarled, gnash. 
See knick-knack. 


See pylorus, knick-knack. 

See gastronomy. 


See yacht. 

See Appendix II. 


See incinerator. 


See /?oodbye. (In ME. god was spelled 
without a capital letter.) 

God's acre. 

See acre. 

See gopher. 


See whippersnapper. 

goiter, goitre. 
See gorge. 


, There is a MHG. glos, sheen, related to 
glare and glass; cp. electricity. From this 


This game is older than any mention of 
Dutch games, but some say the word is 



from Du. kolf, club {cp. clam). It may 
be named from the head of the stick, 
indirectly from L. globus, round mass, 
whence also Enq. globe, q.v. 

See element. 


Sec Appendix II. 

See goodbye, beauty. 


This is a contraction of God be with 
yoii. A half-way stage appears in 
Sliakespeare {Twelfth Night, IV.ii) : 
God buy you. Religious words are often 
changed to less sacred forms, e.g. By 
oi:r Lady, whence, bloody, the Eng. 
oath. The reverse process may have oc- 
curred with gospel; but this is more 
probably directly from AS. god, God -\- 
spell, saying, story — which gives us both 
the magic spell and the orthographical 
spelling. God and good are old but un- 
related Teut. words. God, Goth, guth, 
may be traced to Aryan ghut, god, from 
ghuto, to implore : God is the one to 
whom we pray. 


See yokel. 


This word (we are told in Mathe- 
matics and the Imagination, by Edward 
Kasner and James Newman, New York, 
1940) was invented by Dr. Kasner's 
nine year old nephew, asked to make up 
a name for a very big number, namely, 
1 with a hundred zeros after it, ten 
to the hundreth power, 10'*°. A foot- 
note explains that the word is "not even 
approximately a Russian author" ; but 
it is likely that the child created it 
from echoings of coo, a pleasant sooth- 
ing sound, ooh, a sound expressing 
pleasant surprise, and goo, a sweet 
sticky mess of which a child would 
want a lot, with overtones" of that 
character from what is comically called 
"the comics," Barney Google. 

The child also seems to have invented 
the word googolplex, which is 1 fol- 
lowed by a googol zeros, lO^O"". This 
number is so big "that there would not 
be enough room to write it, if you 
went to the farthest star, touring all 
the nebulae, and putting down zeros 
every inch of the way." Yet it is a 


finite number, and no nearer infinity 
than 7. (The total of possible moves 
in a game of chess is IQio'^. The entire 
universe, with no blank space, filled 
with protons and electrons, would hold 
10"°.) To reach an infinite {q.v.) 
number, you must journey to another 
sort of world. Googol is used seriously 
in mathematics. Cp. myriad. 


See yellow. 


From the Hebrew {Genesis vi. 14) 
this is the wood of which Noah's ark 
was buildcd (probably cypress, or pine). 
The animal is from Fr. gaufre, honey- 
comb, from the pattern of its burrow- 
ings. Then the Fr. made a thin cake 
stamped with a honeycomb design, whence 
also Eng. goffer, referring to the frilled 
design on dresses. This Fr. gaufre, 
in the north, became waufre, wafre, 
whence Eng. wafer; and in MLG. wafel 
and Du. waefel, whence Eng. waffle. 
Have it with maple syrup. 

Gordian (knot). 

See knot. 


Eng. gargle and gurgle are echoic 
words ; similar forms are found in other 
languages ; Fr. gargouillcr. OFr. gargate, 
throat, probably suggested to Rabelais 
the name Gargantua; cp. gargantuan. L. 
gargulio, windpipe, developed a LL. gorga, 
throat. (Classical L. for throat was gut- 
tur, whence Eng. guttural.) From this L. 
gorga, used also of the whole neck, came 
OFr. and Eng. gorge. Applied first to the 
neck, this was later used of things shaped 
like a neck; hence, gorge, a ravine. Hence 
also to stuff the throat, to gorge oneself. 
Diminutives of gorge are Eng. gorgelet, 
gorgeret, gorget; the first two used in 
medicine, the third, in zoology and the 
army. There was also OFr. gorgias, a 
neckpiece, usually a gaudy one; this has 
survived in the adjective Eng. gorgeous. 

Obviously from its protruberance in the 
neck came LL. gutturiosum, literally, full 
of neck, whence Eng. goitre, goiter. 


See gorge. 


See demon. 

See goodbye. 




What we call Indian summer — the 
spell of fine weather in late fall — was 
in England called goose summer (ME. 
gossamer) ; it was the season for eat- 
ing the fatted goose. But in that sea- 
son, fine spider-webs might glisten of 
a pleasant mom. In G. sommer is used 
both of the season and of "summer- 
filtn"; whence gossamer is applied to 
any very thin or delicate material. It 
was once guessed that the word came 
from God-summer; cp. goodbye. It is 
also suggested that the word is from 
God's seam, or thread, as legend tells 
this filmy substance is the ravelling of 
the winding-sheet of the Virgin Mary, 
which trailed back to earth as she as- 
cended to heaven. And mention is made, 
too, of L. gossipin — , cotton. Enough 
to break the gossamer thread. 


Old folk are fond of talking. Gossip 
was originally Godsip, from AS. God -f 
sibb, race : related through God, as God- 
mother or Godfather. (Sib -f- the dimin- 
utive suffix — ling, as in darling, duck- 
ling, gives us the modern Eng. social- 
science term for children of the same 
parents: siblings.) From the gossip that 
talki of the good old days, or more 
tartly of the bad young neighbors, the 
terrn was applied to the talk itself. A 
similar shift occurred in other tongues : 
the Scotch term for gossip, cumtner, is 
from Fr. commere, fellow-mother. God- 
mother. And Eng. compeer (Fr. com, 
together -f- pair, lt6m L. par, equal, on 
a par) in the sense of companion, was 
influenced by Fr. compere, fellow- 
father. Godfather. Old folk are fond 
of talking. 


See Appendix II. 


See drip. 


The comparison of a country's con- 
trol with the steering of a ship is an 
old one : govern, from Fr. gowuemer, 
from L. gubernare, to steer, whence 
gubernatorial, from Gr. kybeman, to 
steer. But if we go a step farther, the 
figure takes us back to land: Sansk. 
kubara, a carriage pole. Hence Lincoln's 
remark about not changing horses is in 
the ancient stream. 


grade, gradual, graduated. 
See issue. 


Writings or drawings scratclied on 
the wall are often a public nuisance, 
though there are times (as with the 

appearance of . . . V on walls all 

over Europe) when they are a factor in 
building morale. The practice is at least 
as old as Pompeii and ancient Ro^ie, 
and thev had a word for it : graffito, 
from L. graffio, a scratch, from Gr. 
graphein, to scratch, then to write. 
Graph is an element in many Eng. 
words, from autograph (Gr. auto, self) 
to zymograph (instrument for recording 
rate of fermentation, from Gr. zyme, 
leaven, ferment). Cp. pnsquinade. 


The cut shoots that are used in graft- 
ing trees looked to the ancients like 
the stylus or pen with which they 
wrote: (from Eng. graffe, from Fr. 
grcffe, from L. graphium, from Gr. 
graphion, stylus, from graphein, to 
write. This gives us graph; graphite, 
the substance in the pencil that does 
the writing ; and the many words in 
which graph is either prefix or suffix). 
The suggestion is made that our slang 
word graft is from Eng. graft, work, 
from the obs. verb grave, to dig ; but 
grafters avoid work : it seems more 
likely that the use is merely an exten- 
sion of the other meaning: something 
added from outside. Cp. carve. 

Imp also first meant a shoot, from 
AS. impian, to graft. Thence, a product 
or offspring, a child {scion, another 
AS. word for shoot, had the same shift 
of meaning). But imp, possibly because 
of the implications of the sound (which 
begins impious, improper and thus ex- 
plosively starts iiiany other words of 
unpleasant meaning) is most frequently 
employed in such a phrase as imp of 
Satan. Brat seems first to have meant 
a cloth ; then, a pinafore ; then, a dis- 
carded one, rubbish — whence it was ap- 
plied contemptuously to a child, i'rchin 
meant a hedgehog, from ME. irchnun, 
from ONFr. herichun, from L. ericiuin, 
hedgehog; then a goblin, then a little 
mischievous boy. 

See barley, pommel. 

Gramercy (Square, New York City). 

This place, the site of the only pri- 




vately owned park in New York City, 
ov/es its name to the crooked lake (De 
Kromme Zee) that used to be there — 
just as Canal Street used to have a 
canal, and Wall Street, now at the lower 
end of Manhattan's pavements, used to 
mark the city's outer wall. Shakespeare 
pften uses yramercy as the Fr. grand 
merci, much thanks (Titus Andronicus, 
I,ii; Taming of the Shrew, I,i; etc.). 

See grass. 


From the root Gr. gra — in graphein, 
to write {cp. graft) came Gr. gramma, 
letter. The art of writing was Gr. gram- 
matike techne ; whence, via OFr. gram- 
aire, Eng. grammar. Applied at first to 
the study of literature in all its aspects, 
this word was later restricted to the 
linguistic aspects, then to those structural 
elements to which the term is still ap- 
plied. From the middle ages until the 
19th c, grammar meant the study of 
Latin ; hence, our grammar schools. 

The association with Latin linked gram- 
mar with learning in general ; in the 
popular mind (knowledge is power), 
learning meant association with the oc- 
cult and hidden arts, for which see glam- 

See pommel. 


To bowdlerize (q.v.) is to remove 
erotic elements from a book; to gran- 
gerize is to add sentimental. The Rev. 
J. Granger (d. 1776), in England, 
tucked into his books reviews, letters, 
pictures, anything he could gather relat- 
ing to the work or its author. The 
name took hold with the practice. 

See peach. 

graph, graphite. 

See graft. 


When you say the grass grows green, 
you are using three words from one 
source. Grass, grow, and green all 
spring from a Teut. gro, apparently 
from an Aryan ghra, to grow. From 
the same root comes L. gramen, gra- 
minis, grass, which gives us several 
words, e.g., graminivorous, yrojj-eating. 
See graze. 

A grass widow is not one that is free 
to gambol in new pastures, but a grace 
widow, from Fr. veuve de grace; by 
grace or dispensation of the Pope, to 
allow divorce. It's easier nowadays, 
when women jaunt to Nevada to be 
Renovated (telescoped by Walter Win- 
chell, from Reno, city that is the center 
of the divorce trade of Nevada, and 
renovation, renewal). 

In India, however, a grass widow is 
not a woman freed by divorce, but a wife 
living in the cool grassy hill-country while 
her husband swelters at his job on the 
dusty plains. 

See great, knick-knack. 


See aggravate. 


One source of this word is OE. 
graef, grafan, to dig. This probably 
has an earlier form, ghrabh (not re- 
lated to Gr. graphein, to write). Fron» 
this source comes the meaning : a place 
where a corpse is laid; also from this 
source are engrave, to mark by digging 
in ; and groove, a line or mark dug in. 
Nor must we overlook the graven 

Another source is akin to Du. grave, 
G. Graf; this survives in Eng. in the 
title Landgrave. 

The nautical term grave, graving- 
dock, a place where a ship is beached 
to clean its bottom, ts from Fr. greve, 
shore. Tlie diminutive of this, as ap- 
plied to the coarse sand of the shore, 
gives us (by way of the Celtic) gravel. 

For grave from L. gravis, heavy, see 

gravel, graven. 
See grave. 

gravid, gravitate, gravitation, gravity. 
See aggravate. 


Several words have entangled in this 
form. When cattle graze, they feed on 
grass, and the word graze is a doublet 
of grass, from AS. grasian. But the 
word has also been affected by OFr. 
graissier, to make fat, from OFr. 
graisse, whence Eng. grease, from LL. 
crassia, from L. crassa, neuter plural 
of crcLssus, fat. 



To graze, meaning; to touch and 
glance off, is still more intertwined. It 
is from ME. glacen, from OFr. glacier, 
from LL. glaciare, to slip on ice, from 
L. glacies, ice, whence Eng. glacier. The 
change from / to r is through the in- 
fluence of Fr. raser, to scrape (whence 
Eng. raze, razor), from L. radcre, 
ras — , ^o scrape. But also — just as ra- 
dere is related to rodere, to gnaw, 
whence Eng. rodent — this second graze 
is affected by the first, in the sense 
tliat cattle nibble off the grass but do 
not touch the fundament (as the razor, 
in turn, slices off the hair but — usually, 
we trust — not the Skin). 

See graze. 


See grit. The homonym, grate, is from 
LL. (/rata from L. crates, hurdle. (For 
something that grates on you, sec knick- 
knack). The diminutive of L. crates was 
craticulum, whence by the same sort of 
chanRC come EnR. qriddlc and grill. Grid- 
dle was earlier grcdile ; a variant of this, 
grcdirc, was changed by folk etymology 
(considering the material of which it's 
made) to gridiron; from the lines that 
mark the yards along the ground, this 
word is applied to a football field; grid- 
iron is also shortened to grid. 

The confusion of homonyms is used 
by Jonathan Swift (English satirist, 1667 
— 1745) in his Etymology in Earnest, 
wherein he undertakes to demonstrate 
that the classical tongues were formed 
from English. He illustrates by showing 
the origins of a few well-known names. 
Thus, as we call a trouble-maker a kill- 
joy, the Trojans called the Greek hero a 
kilt-case, Achilles. One Greek ruler liked 
his eggs roasted on the coals ; as soon as 
he woke every morning, the bedroom 
slaves called to the kitchen slaves: 'All 
eggs under the grate! All eggs under 
the grate!" From being heralded that 
way every morning, he came to be known 
as Ale.vander the Great. (Serious ety- 
mology sometimes seems to use similar 
methods !) 

See issue. 

See grass. 

See yellow. 



See month; Appendix II. 

Greenwich Village. 

This place-name (from the so-called 
artists' quarter of New York City), 
used as an adjective to mean pseudo- 
artistic, with a suggestion of gay night 
life (as in the Paris Latin Quarter), 
doubles on itself. Greenwich, in Eng- 
land, is the center from which the time 
of the world radiates ; it is earlier 
Grenawic, from AS. grian-tuic, sun vil- 
lage. Wic and village are the same; 
see villain. 


See absolute. 


See Appendix II. 


This was apparently first used by a 
drunken pilot who blamed his crash into 
the sea on the gremlins (from bottles of 
Fremlin brand beer). It might be from 
OE. greme, to vex. with the diminutive 
noun ending. More likely is the thought 
of Ir. gruaimin, ill-tempered man -j- gob- 
lin. And there may have filtered in some 
prison-shudder of the Kremlin! Let them 
keep away 1 

grenade, grenadier, grenadine. 

5"^^ pommel. 


This dog is so swift that it has out- 
run its origin. Hound is common Teut., 
AS. hund. related to hunt, from AS. 
huniian, to hunt. The grey has no re- 
lation to color. One suggestion is that 
it is from AS. grig, bitch; another, 
that it is a translation of L. cants grae, 
Greek hound. Other dogs are named 
from places: dalmatian (the "fire 
dog") ; spaniel (from Spain) ; the Pe- 

The word dog (a rare AS. docga, 
mastiflF) does not appear until the 11th 
c. ; then it is the name of one large 
variety, usually elsewhere called English 
dog. As hound was widely used for 
varieties employed in hunting, it grew 
restricted in application, while dog grad- 
ually grew more general. Hence it came 
to be applied to dogs of indeterminate 
ancestry, and then in general scorn, as in 
dog-Latin; dog-rhymes; hence, perhaps, 
the diminutive doggerel. 



grief, grievance, grieve, grievous. 

See aggravate. 

See ground. 


See Yankee. 

See ground. 


Two words here have kept separate, 
but have influenced one another. There 
is OE. great, from an early root form 
ghreus — , to pound, to crush; hence the 
grit that lingers in your spinach. There 
is also OE. grytt, earlier greut — , graut — , 
chaff, now used only in the plural as 
grits or groats, first a coarse form of 
oats, now applied to various other grains. 
The first grit came to be used of the 
texture of stone, as all one grit, hard 
grit, clear grit. Hence, of persons, clear 
grit came to mean of good hard quality : 
as, he showed his grit. 

Probably from that OTeut. graut—, 
meaning coarse, big, came OE. and Eng. 
great. This first meant massive, stout 
(opposed to small, AS. smael, which first 
meant slender) ; hence also big with cour- 
age, and in other figurative ways, as in 
The day of our victory will be a great 
day ! 


Sfe grit. 

See record. 

grog, groggy. 

See demijohn. 

See grave. 

See record. 


This word means, like the figures on 
the walls of grottoes, which seemed 
outlandish to later critical eyes. Grot, 
earlier grotta, and grotto, are from LL. 
grupta {crypt is a doublet), from Gr. 
krypte, from kryptos, hidden, from kryp- 
tein, to hide. Cryptography is hidden, 
or secret, writing; the unabridged dic- 
tionary gives almost 120 words begin- 
ning with the prefix crypt — or cryp- 


to — , from cryptaesthesia to cryptosy- 

See grotesque. 


This is widespread in Teuton lands, 
but has no known cognates elsewhere. 
OE. grund, meaning the bottom ; then, the 
earth as on the bottom of the heavens. 
All the other meanings rest on this 

The Eng. grind, on the contrary, is 
lacking in the other Teutonic tongues : 
OE. grindan, grand, grundon is perhaps 
cognate with L. frendere, to gnash the 
teeth ; the first sense was the crushing 
between two surfaces ( as the Upper and 
the nether grindstone). Hence, all is 
grist (the noun, from OE. grist from 
grinst) that comes to the mill. 

See penguin; cp. pedigree. 


This verb is one of a group that 
have been formed by mistaking an ad- 
verb for a present participle. ME. — ling 
became later Eng. — ly, or — long, as 
in headily and headlong. Where the 
earlier form lingered, it led to the back- 
formation of a verb : darkle from dark- 
ling; sidle from sidling; grovel from 
groveling. The source here is AS. 
groofling, along the groof, belly. 


See grass. 

grumble, grumpy, grunt. 
See globe. 

guarantee, guard. 
See warrior. 


Here is another word that was guided 
back toward its origin. The L. guidare, 
to lead, had developed the OFr. 'guie, 
whence Eng. guy (q.v., for another 
source), surviving in the ship's guy rope. 
But in the 14th c. the earlier form be- 
gan to reassert itself, and by about 1500 
the guy was replaced by the guide. 


See warrior. 

See Appendix II. 




See turkey. 


See yellow. It is also suggested that 
the sense of gull, fool, may come from 
the bird's swallowing anything that is 
tossed to it. The bird name is common 
Teut. Hence also gullible. 


Ships have names ; so have trains. 
Men that work with them give names 
to engines, airplanes, guns. The list of 
munitions at Windsor Castle in 1330 
mentions a "large balHsta called Lady 
Gunhilda." This, rather than the echo 
of its sound, gives us our gun. Big 
Bertha (G. die dicke Bertha, fat Bertha; 
from Bertha Krupp, whose husband 
owned the steel and munition works at 
Essen) was the most famous gun of 
World War I. 

See giggle ; gorge ; slang. 

See pluck. 

See drip, gutter. 


L. gutta, a drop (gutta percha is modi- 
fied to resemble this, from Malay getah 
percha, gum tree — the gum exuding drop 
by drop) became Fr. gouttc ; and a chan- 
nel (on housetops) to collect the drops 
of rainwater was Fr. goutticre, whence 
Eng. gutter. Cp. drip. 

From its use as a small channel along 
the side of a road, the word came to be 
associated with mud, mire, filth : hence 
the bird, the gutter-snipe, ■ (picking at 
grains of food there) was contemptuously 
applied to persons whose career ended in 
the gutter. 


See gorge. 


A god of the Baltic Slavs, Svanlo- 
Vid, was adored with hysterical dances 
(such as accompany "revivals" in our 
time). With Christianity, his name (like 
other pagan names and institutions) was 
altered ; they made Sa'nctus Vitus, Saint 
Vitus, out of him. Hence, 5"/. Vitus' 
dance. Hence, also, the names : G. 
Veit, It. Guido, Fr. and Eng. Guy. 

One of these Guys, Guy Fawkes, was 
caught (Nov. 5, 1605) in the "Gun- 


powder Plot" to blow up the Parlia- 
ment. On the anniversary, effigies of 
him were carried through London 
streets; whence, guy came to mean any 
odd looking fellow, and as time made 
the memory mellow, any fellow at all. 
To guy still means to poke fun at, to 
fool. See guide. 


Though the college girl startled her 
parents by saying that she weighed lO.S 
lbs. stripped for "gym", a gymnast is 
literally (Gr. gymnos) a naked person. 
Gymnasium (Gr. gymnasion, from gym- 
na::ein, to train : all exercise was in the 
nude) is a place for exercise. (Cur- 
rent practice at bathing beaches is re- 
approaching the Greek.) Gymn — and 
gyinno — are Eng. combining forms for 
scientific words. Thus gymnite is a 
mineral (a hydrated silicate of magne- 
sium) so named because found at Bare 
Hills, Maryland. Gymnotus is the elec- 
tric eel (Gr. noton, back) ; it has no 
fins on its back. A score of such words 
are in the unabridged dictionary. There 
are also the gymnosophists, ancient 
Hindu philosophers ascetic of habits 
and scant of dress. 


See banshee. 


An Arabian mantle (jubbah) came 
into the west as a jibbah — though on 
its trail it gave the Fr. jupe and jupon, 
skirt; and Eng. jumper, earlier jump. 
A short jacket, such as the servants 
wore at Cambridge, England, was called 
a gippo, still further shortened to gyp. 
Possibly influenced by gipsy, gypsy 
(earlier gypcian, from Egyptian, Egypt 
being their supposed home), it was ap- 
plied to the servants themselves. It is 
easy, alas, to see how the word then 
came to mean a cheat ! There is also 
the suggestion that the college boys 
may also have been thinking of gypb, 
a vulture — which was Greek to them. 
There is another sense of gyp in some 
localities : to handle roughly, to thrash, 
which may be related to gee-up, an or- 
der to a horse. Gee-up is really gee- 
hup!, commands to move ahead. 

See gyp ; tatterdemalion ; island. 


See amphigory. 




Learned references connect this word 
with Fr. avoirdupois, which in ME. is 
sometimes spelled haberdupois ; but it is 
more probably connected with our free- 
dom. That is, among the items deter- 
mined by the first great document of 
liberty, the Magna Carta, was the width 
of a cloth called hapertas. A hapertaser 
or haberdasher, as it was easier to say, 
was originally a dealer in this cloth, 
from which men's garments were made. 

habile, habiliment, habilitate. 

See ability. 

See customer. 


See heckle. 


See tatterdemalion. 


See hegira. 

See element. 

hag, haggard. 
See hedge. 


See whole. 


Popular mythology has altered this 
word. Gr.alkyon, kingfisher (L. alcedo, 
kingfisher; ON. a/^o, whence Eng. om^) 
was changed to halcyon, as though it 
came from Gr. hals, sea + ^^^n, con- 
ceiving : the story was that the bird 
made a nest that floated on the waters, 
and while the eggs were hatching the 
weather was clear and calm: the hal- 
cyon days. 

See wealth, wassail, whole. 


When a man spoke of his better half, 
he was referring to the rib of Adam; 
for the first meaning of AS. hcalf (com- 
mon Teut.) was side. If you worked in 
behalf of someone, you worked by his 
side. Since we have (in common consid- 
eration) two sides to our body, the word 
came to the present meaning of one half. 


See holy ; cp. butt. 


See aureole. 


See necromancy. 


This word is from OTeut. ham, 
crooked, being first the part of the 
leg that crooks. The ham actor is a 
combination of cockney hatnateur {am- 
ateur, via Fr. from L. amatoretn, 
lover, from L. amarc, amat — , to love, 
whence Eng. amatory) and Hamlet, the 
most frequently (mis) performed role. 
Cp. monk. From "the bend of the 
knee" (OE. hamm, crooked), this word 
was extended up the back of the thigh ; 
cp. garter. 

hamburger, hamlet. 
See dollar. 

See harangue. 

See pylorus. 

See boot. 


This was first 

a bandanna (Hind. 



bUndhnii, knot-dyeing, batik, from Sansk. 
bandhana, binding), to use around the 
head, from OFr. couvre-chef, whence 
Eng. kerchief, cover head ; cp. achieve. 
Thus a pocket-handkerchief is put in 
the pocket to carry in the hand to 
cover the head. 


See thimble. 

See awry. 


Most persons have been annoyed by 
a bit of skin that sometimes seems to 
hang from the fingernail. The hangnail 
drew only the h from its hanging, from 
AS. hangian; it is the much more im- 
portant element of the pain involved: 
AS. angnaegl, from ange, pain, whence 
Eng. anguish. Isn't it so? Cp. nail. 

happen, happy. 

See emporium. 

hara kiri. 

This tenn for the Japanese suicide to 
"save one's face" was translated into 
English (probably by the Japanese) as 
"happy dispatch." It actually means 
belly cut. The NED speaks of it as 
"formerly practiced" ; but it seems re- 
cently to have been renewed. 


The G. initial h (or ch) was espe- 
cially hard for the Romance tongue to 
sound before another consonant (Thus 
OHG, hnapf, cup; AS. hnaepp became 
in OFr. hanaps, goblets, whence ha- 
naf>ier, a case to hold them. This was 
ME. hanaper, whence Eng. hamper.) 
OHG. hring, the circle (Eng. ring) in 
which an audience sat or stood, became 
harangue; the word itself was trans- 
ferred from the group to the speech. 
The simpler process of droping the h 
(OFr. renc, whence ranc) gives Eng. 
rank, originally a circle of soldiers. 
Later, they marched and attacked in 
lines. And from this word, tiirough Sp. 
rancho, the place for a rank of sol- 
diers, then any row of huts, came Eng. 

harass, harbinger, harbor. 

See harum-scarum. 


L. crassus, fat, coarse, came into Fr. as 


eras, then gras. with the meaning center- 
ing on the fat ; Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday, 
Shrove Tuesday, day of celebration. In 
Eng. it came down with the emphasis 
on the coarse, giving us crass impudence. 
Gr. crates, thick, strong, shifted trail 
also ; but came via its Teut. cognate, from 
kartiis and hardus to Eng. hard. Disa- 
greeably hard was early hardsk, hardsch, 
MLG. harsch, Eng. harsh. An instrument 
for measuring power goes back to the Gr., 


See seraglio. 


Before he was a clowm, Harlequin 
was a demon hunter, accompanied by 
his retinue of friends, his meinie (from 
OFr. moynie, from tnesnie, from L. 
tnansionem, household ; wiience Eng. 
mansion: cp. remnant). In OFr. he was 
hennequin, hierlequin, hellequin; in 
Dante's Inferno, Alichino. The English 
etymologists suggest that the name is a 
diminutive of a proper name, as Flem. 
Han, John. The French are more fer- 
tile. Recalling a Judge Harley, whom 
one of the medieval Italian comedians 
frequented in Paris, they suggest "little 
Harley" — Harlequino — as the nickname 
given this plaj^er, which stuck. They also 
suggest OHG. Erie, sprite, -\- K'dnig, 
king : harlequin, king of the spirits. Fi- 
nally, accepting the diminutive, they 
suggest hellequin, from G. Hell : a little 
fiend from hell. From all this has de- 
scended the gay or madcap farce of 
the harlequinade. 


As furlough time in any war reveals, 
soldiers are reckless with their pay. 
Hence the horde of camp-followers. 
Harlot (first, of either sex, like witch; 
cp. wicked) is from OHG. hari, army, 
-j- AS. loddere, beggar. Since the camp- 
followers were mainly women, the sex 
and meaning grew limited accordingly. 


This was originally a term, not in 
music, but in carpentry, from Gr. har- 
mozcin, to fit together. Harmony is a 
basic principle in Greek and Oriental 
philosophy ; note that both the Greeks 
and the Indians have a carpenter god ; 
the Christian God is a mason, but his 
son was a carpenter. Carpenter, though 
directly from OFr. carpentier, from L. 
carpentarius. cartwright, from carpentum. 



cart, is a Celt, word : from Gael, car- 
bad, Olr. carpat, chariot. 

The fact that wood is the primary life- 
stuff, "of which all things are made", 
shows it no historical accident but a 
mythical necessity that the god be re- 
ferred to as a carpenter. 


See harpoon The harpsichord is a 
variety of harp in which the chords are 
plucked when keys are struck; it was 
used from the 16th through the 18th 
c, before the pianoforte. The s has no 
etymological reason, but gives the word 


The Gr. god of silence — his cult is 
forgotten today. His very existence is 
an error on the part of the Greeks, who 
saw the statues of the Egyptian Dawn 
God, Har-(p)-chrot (Horus, the sun) as 
a child with his finger to his lips. 
Dawn, the day's birth, was represented 
by an infant that cannot speak (L. 
infans, not speaking, from in, not + 
fans, present particplc of fari, to 
speak) ; cp. infantry. 


A harpy was one of the creatures 
the ancient Greeks and Romans had 
torturing their damned. The harpies 
snatched the food of those in Tartarus, 
just before it reached their mouth. Gr. 
harpyiai, snatcher, is related to Gr. 
harpe, claw, sickle, which gives us Eng. 
harpoon. The miser in Moliere's L'Avare 
{The Miser, 1168; avare, whence Eng. 
avaricious) is named harpagon, which 
is Gr. for grappling-hook. 

The harp was a favorite instrument 
among the Teutons, OE. hearpe, whence 
the Romans borrowed the word as LL. 
harpa. Hence the figurative use, to 
keep on and on, as Polonius says of 
Hamlet "still harping on my daughter." 
One story has it that a medieval book 
says Nero could never get the burning 
of Rome out of his mind ; he was con- 
stantly harping on it; the translator did 
not know the figurative use of the 
word — but he knew there were no harps 
in ancient Rome. He therefore "cor- 
rected" the instrument — and behold, 
Nero fiddled while Rome burned ! 

Sec harp. 


See harpoon. 


Sec harum-scarum. 


See hard. 


This reduplicated word (cp. scurry) 
for a devil-may-care sort of fellow means 
what it seems to say : he is one that used 
to scare 'em. The first form, harum, is 
from an early Eng. hare, from OFr. 
harcr, to set the dogs on, whence also 
liarass (this has the accent on the first 
syllable), being from Fr. harasser, fre- 
quentative of harcr. Related? is harry, 
from .\S. hcrian, to make war, from the 
common Teut. and early Eng. here, army. 
Note that harbor was originally a shelter 
for the army, from here (OHG. hari) 
-f- berg : OE. herebeorg. And the har- 
binger was one that provided shelter, OE. 
hcrbcrger ; berg (as in burg, city; cp. 
dollar) from bcrgcn, to protect. The 
second part is from scare, which was in- 
transitive, then transferred from the feel- 
ing to the arousal : to scare is from ME. 
skerre, a scare, from skiarr, timid. Hence 
the harum-scarum. 


See crop. 

See assassin. 

See adder. 

See heckle. 

hatter (mad as a). 
See adder. 

See whole. 


Wyclif says "Haunt thyself to pity" — 
which is as odd to us as the early use of 
prevent, q.v. For haunt (from Fr. hanter, 
to frequent) first meant doing something 
frequently ; then, going somewhere fre- 
quently, as to one's favorite haunts. 
Shakespeare used it of a ghost's return- 
ing to a place; and the practice spread. 

See expose. 





See Appendix II. 


See ability. 


Cry "Havoc" and let slip the dogs of 
war. To us, this implies slaughter 
ahead ; but to Shakespeare (Julius Cae- 
sar, 111,1,273) and tliose before him, it 
meant plunder. The cry meant that the 
battle was won ; the men could turn 
from butchery to booty. It is from OFr. 
havot, plunder. This is of Teut. origin ; 
OFr. havet, hook, from G. Haft, a 
clasp ; and (the G. guttural h or ch 
being like a k) akin to L. capere, 
capt — , to seize. It should be noted that 
the name for hawk, which was cried in 
hunting with that bird, was AS. hafoc. 
Cp. manceuvre. 


See States. 

See havoc. 

See hedge. 


We strew straw (cp. destroy) and we 
hew hay, from AS. hieg, from OTeut. 
stem hauw — , whence hew. The word was 
naturally common Teut. ; cp. color. 

Many phrases employ the word. Look 
for a needle in a bottle (q.v.) of hay; 
make hay while the sun shines. To carry 
hay in one's horns (which is translated 
from L. of Horace) means to be danger- 
ous ; an ox that might gore had its horns 
wrapped with hay. Hey nonny nanny is 
not connected, being a phrase of jollity 
added for rhythm or rhyme, from Hey! 
a shout to call attention, which we still 
use. During the War between the States, 
illiterate soldiers were taught to march 
with bits of hay and of straw tucked in 
their boots : "Hay foot, Straw foot !" 


Roman soldiers tossed dice for the 
clothes of the .crucified Jesus. The prac- 
tice continued ; at the time of the Cru- 
sades, William of Tyre tells us, a game 
of chance was played which the Sp. 
called azar, from the castle in Palestine 
called Ain Zarba or Asart. From the 
game, the word spread to anything haz- 
ardous. See hold. 


See adder. 

heal, health. 
See wealth, whole. 


The occasion that calls for a heUrse 
is often harrowing ; indeed, the word 
hearse conies from OFr. herse, from 
L. hirpe.r, a large rake or harrow. 
I'Vjam the shape, the word was ajiplied 
to a frame with iron points on wiiich 
candles were stuck, used in the ciiurch. 
l^ut over coffins, the canopy borrowed 
the word, wiiich was later applied to 
the bier, and even to the tomb. About 
tlie 17tli c, it became restricted to tlic 
vehicle in which the coffin is borne to 
the grave. The word rehearse, refer- 
ring usually to less solemn themes, 
literally means to rake over aj^ain. 


This word is common Teut., cognate 
with L. cor (whence core; cordial; cp. 
prestige) and Gr. kardia; whence Eng. 
cardiac conditions. As the pumping organ, 
it was associated with the passions, esp. 
the tender passion, whence sweetheart; 
thence also with the feelings in general 
(my heart smote me) ; and the under- 
standing, hence, to learn by heart, opposed 
to by rote, q.v. We say "His heart's 
in his mouth" of a man afraid ; but 
Shakespeare said (Coriolanus II I, i, 256) : 

His heart's his mouth : 
What his breast forges, that his 
tongue must vent. 

From its position and importance in the 
body, came its use as the center or core 
of a matter, as in the heart of the city. 
Take heart. 

heath, heathen, heather. 

See briar, pagan. 

Heavyside (layer). 

See Appendix II. 

Hebe, hebetic. 

See epiiehic. 


By way of French, Latin, Greek, 
.'\raniaic, Hebrew, this word (referring 
to Abraham) is from eher, Aram, ihn, 
from the other side (of the river). All 
the names in the Bible — as indeed ori.c;- 




inally all names— have a specific mean- 
ing The Israelites derive this name 
from Israel. from Heb. tsra-\-el, 
wrestler with the Lord, descriptive ot 
Jacob after his bout with the angel. 
The word Jetv means one of the tribe 
of Judah or Yehudah (from which Yud, 
and Yiddish), called by his father Ja- 
cob, "lion." For Christian, see cream. 
Names arise in various ways. A 
tribe's own name for itself may become 
the general word, e.g. Slav, meaning 
glory— which by their conquest became 
slave- cp. free; Frank. The Canadian 
Indians called the folk to the north 
Eskiynos, eaters of raw meat. 


This word first meant an instrument 
for combing hemp. It is a variant of 
hackle, diminutive of hack, to cut. The 
noun hack meant a cutting instrument 
like a pick-ax or hoe. A diminutive of 
this word, via Fr. hache, axe, is Eng. 
hatchet. As a verb, heckle meant to 
cut at, to cut roughly. Similarly tease 
first meant to pull apart the fibres of 
wool; it was common Teut., OHU. 
seisan, to tease wool. The teasel or 
teazle was the thistle used for such 
purposes, then for pulling cloth to raise 
a nap on it. Both heckle and tease 
were early used figuratively, in their 
present senses; hence also Sir Peter 
Teazle, who is always teasmg his 
Lady in Sheridan's The School tor 
Scandal (1777). Cognate with tease 
was an early touse, to pull (whence the 
dogs named Towser) ; the frequentative 
of this is Eng. tousle, tousled, as for- 
merly often my hair; and of course 
tousling often leads to ius.^hng— tussle 
beinc just another form of the same 
word. An attempt to heckle often ends 
in a tussle. . „ , r 

A mere hock, originally a horse tor 
hire is short for hackney, from OFr. 
haquenee, a hired horse, esp. one easy 
for ladies to ride; hence, to hackney 
meant to break in, and hackneyed, 
easy to tfse. worn out. 

This first meant a habit, from Gr. 
hektikos, from hexis, habit, from exetn, 
to have, to hold. Then it was applied 
to the habitual appearance, esp. of a 
consumptive. From the same verb, in 
thp sense of to hold up. to support 
came the name Hector, "the prop and 
stay of Troy," the son of Hecuba and 

Priam; from his boastful and dom- 
ineering ways (in the late medieval 
drama) comes the verb to hector. The 
future of exein, to hold, is skeso; 
whence schema, form, whence Eng. 


See hectic. 


This word is common leut., a:>. 
hecg. As hedges were grown to keep 
fields secure, to hedge on a bet is to 
surround it with counteractions. The 
hawthorn is ME. hagathorn, hedge 
thorn. A witch was a hedge-uder 
(OHG. zunrita; cp. villain) ; whence 
AS. haegiesse, witch, whence hag. 
This sense combined with the fierce 
eyes of the wild hawk, the haggard, 
the hedge-hWd, waiting nearby to pounce 
upon the farmyard fowl— to give the 
adjective haggard its current meaning. 

Behind the hedge is the OTeut. stem 
hagja—. whence also OE. haja, Eng. hay. 
This is akin to West G. hakja, whence 
Eng. hatch (gate) and the ships hatch- 
way. The origin of hatching birds is 
unknown. Cp. heckle. 

See sweet. 

See adder. 

hegira. .... , , 

This word, also htjrah and hejtra, is 
from Arab, hijrah, flight. It refers speci- 
ficallv to the flight of Mohammed from 
Medina to Mecca— to which all Moham- 
medans turn in prayer ; hence, the Mecca 
of one's striving. The Mohammedan cal- 
endar begins with the year of the hegira, 
622 A.D. , ^ . 

Every Mohammedan seeks to make a 
pilgrimage to Mecca annually ; but at 
least once during his life. This is called 
hadj, from Arab, hajji; the Hebrew pil- 
grimage to Jerusalem is Heb. hag. 

heifer. , . .^ .• 

We sing songs of the bounding main, 
but the bounding kids and calves are 
preserved in the language. From L 
vitulari to skip, comes L. vitulus, call. 
Related to Sansk. cap, camp, to go to 
bound are Gr. kapros, the bounding 
boar; L. caper, the goat— whence we 
cut capers: AS. haefer, a he-goat and 
heafor, whence Eng. heifer. This word 



was sometimes used as heahfore, from 
heah, high -\- fore, from faran, to go, 
whence Eng. fare. Cp. taxi. FarewtXW 

See hegira. 


See flower. 


This airplane describes itself in its 
name, from Gr. helix, helico — , spiral 
(whence Eng. helix) + pteron, wing. It 
is not related to Gr. helios, sun, as in 
heliography, writing by (reflected) sun, 
and heliotrope, q.v. Ptero — is a frequent 
combining form, as in pterodactyl, wing- 

For dactyl, a foot in verse, see date. 
Reverse it (two short syllables followed 
by one long) and you have the anapest, 
from Gr. atiapaistos, reversed, from ana, 
back -f- paiein, to strike. The iamb, 
iambus, or iambic foot (one short syl- 
lable followed by one long) is from Gr. 
iambikos, iambos, probably from iaptein, 
to assail, being first used (by Archilochus, 
7th c. B.C.) for invective and satiric 
verses ; or possibly from ienai, to go (as 
the feet amble along), with the ending 
as in dithyramb, the choric hymn to 
Dionysos. The trochee {q.v., one long 
syllable followed by one short) gets its 
name from the patter of running feet. 


See artichoke, flower, trophy. 


See helicopter. 


See element. 


.S"<'£ helmet. 


This word is figuratively used of a 
hopeless bar between lovers. It draws its 
name from Gr. hellespontos, sea of Helle, 
daughter of Athamas, who, flying on the 
golden ram from the wrath of her 
mother-in-law (even in those days!) Ino, 
fell into the sea. But the use is rather 
from the drowning of Leander, who 
nightly used to swim the Hellespont to 
meet his beloved Hero, a priestess of 
Venus. Many years later, the poet Byron 
swam the sea. 


The L. celare, to cover, to hide (L. con. 


com, together, used as intensive; cp. com- 
mence) gives us Eng. conceal; cp. cell. 
But the root kel — came into Teut. as 
kelmos, helmos, whence helm (also 
heaume), a large head-piece, the diminu- 
tive of which is helmet. There is an early 
Eng. verb, hele, to cover, to hide ; and 
from this source comes the final hiding- 
place, hell. This was at first used of the 
abode of the dead, the underworld (which 
contained both the Elysian Fields of the 
blessed and Tartarus for the accursed) ; 
but its use to translate Gr. gehenna, in the 
New Testament, turned it into the haunt 
of the fiends and the devils, horrid hell. 

See Appendix II. 


This is a corruption of helpmeet, 
which is the product of a misimder- 
standing. The Lord God said (Genesis 
2, 18) : "It is not good that the man 
should be alone; I will make him an 
help meet for him." The word meet, 
suitable, was first attached to help with 
a hyphen, then used with it as one 
word. Feeiing that this was somehow 
wrong, about half a century later (ca. 
171.S) the word helpmate was fashioned. 


See helpmate. 

See semi — . 


See incentive. 


Sir Walter Scott revived many old 
English words; he had a keen sense for 
them, and a delight in their use. Oc- 
casionally, however, he made an error ; 
for instance, he mistook this word as 
haunchman, therefore servant. It was 
ME. henxtman, from OE. hengest man, 
horse man, a groom or squire. Hengest, 
a stallion, is also a proper name; 
Hengist and Horsa (Eng. horse) were 
brothers who conquered Kent. 


See number. (Swinburne entitled his 
seven poetic parodies Heptalogia, Seven 
Against Sense. One of the best is a self- 

herb, herbarium, herbivorous. 

See sarcophagus ; neighbor. 





This adjective is from the tremen- 
dous tasks, or twelve labors, of Hercu- 
les (Gr. Herakles), which he performed 
for the goddess Hera — whence his 
name : Hera -\- Gr. kleos, glory. He was 
to: kill the Nemean lion, the Lemean 
hydra, the Erymanthian boar, the can- 
nibal birds of Lake Stymphalis ; cap- 
ture the Arcadian stag, the Cretan bull, 
the horses of Diomedes, the oxen of 
Geryon, the girdle of Queen Hippolyte 
of the Amazons, the apples of Hes- 
perides ; bring the three-headed guardian 
dog Cerberus up from the underworld ; 
and cleanse the Augean stables. 


This formidable crime consists really 
in thinking for oneself, from Gr. hair- 
esis, choice, from hairein, to take. The 
heretic chose for himself, instead of 
following the given path. 

hermaphrodite, hermeneutics. 
See hermetically. 


H emits was the Greek god (Roman, 
Mercury) of science, commerce, thiev- 
ery, eloquence. As messenger of the 
gods he bore the caduceus, or rod, and 
wore the talaria, or winged shoes. Gr. 
eretnites, whence Eng. hermit, from Gr. 
eremia, desert, is probably not related ; 
but Hermes Trismegistus, (from Gr. 
Hermes tris megistos, Hermes thrice- 
greatest) was identified with the Egyp- 
tian god Thoth, the founder of al- 
chemy. Since melting metals was a 
principal method of the alchemist's quest, 
hermetic sealing came to mean sealing 
by fusion ; hence hermetically is used 
of things tightly closed. Hermeneutics, 
the art of interpretation, draws its 
meaning from Hermes as the message- 
bearer of the gods, whence Gr. 
hermeneus, interpreter. The son of 
Hermes and Aphrodite, q.v., growing to- 
gether with the nymph Salmacis, who 
loved him so much she prayed they 
might become one flesh, gives us the 
hermaphrodite. Cp. caduceus. 

See hermetically. 


This is another false singular {cp. 
pea), from Gr. heros, hero; the fem- 
inine is heroine (four syllables), 
whence Eng. heroine. The drug heroin, 

named to conceal its relation to mor- 
phium {cp. remorse), gives one a 
sense of grandeur, makes one think 
oneself a hero. 

See argosy. 

hetero — . 
See homo — . 

See paradox. 


See paradox ; cp. racy. 

See eureka. 


See color ; hay. 


See number. 


See hay. 


This habit of certain animals has prob- 
ably nothing to do with the Irish ; cp. 
Hibernia. The L. adjective hibernus, from 
hiems, winter, produced the verb hiber- 
nare, hibernat — , to spend the winter. 
Similarly, to spend the summer is aestiva- 
tion, estivation, from L. aestivare, aesti- 
vat — , from aestivus, hot, from aestus, 
heat (also, tide, hence Eng. estuary). 
Bacon speaks of humans estivating in a 
grotto; but the word is applied also to 
creatures, e.g. the lung-fish, that lie 
torpid during the tropic dry season. 

The L. aestus, tide and aestas, summer, 
are related to Gr. aithein. to burn ; cp. 


The Hibernian race was to the Ro- 
mans the wintry race, from L. hiber- 
nus, wintry, from the land of storms. 
It seems to spring, from Ir. Ibh-erna, 
from ibh, country -f- er, noble. The er 
is also in Erin, and akin to Sansk. 
arya, noble — Aryan, the noble race. 

The same root, er, yr, noble, forms the 
first syllable of Ireland and the Irish. The 
British draw their name from another 
characteristic, Britain being earlier Celtic 
brython, tatooed. 


See Appendix II. 





Three common Teut. words converge 
in this Eng. one. As a skin, hide is 
from OE. hyd. Pronounced with an 
initial h like clearing the throat, it is 
cognate witii L. cutis, from Gr. kutos, 
whence Eng. cuticle, cutaneous. Linked 
by the story of Dido (granted as 
much land as she could cover with a 
bull's hide, she cut it into thin strips, 
and bounded the site of Carthage) is 
hide, a measure of land. This, via AS. 
hid, from higid, is related to AS. hig — , 
hiiu — , family, household : G. Heirat, 
marriage ; Heimat, home. The verb to 
hide is from AS. hydan, reminding us 
that one of the earliest disguises was 
an animal skin. Related also, via L. 
hispidus, bristly skin, whence OFr. his- 
(Ids, wIkmkc hidos, whence Fr. hideux, 
comes Eng. hideous. 


See oubliette. 

See hide. 


These words were carved by the 
ancient Egyptian priests (Gr. hieros, 
ho\y, -\- glyphein, to carve). A stone 
with hieroglyphs, with demotic (popu- 
lar) Egyptian, and Greek lettering — 
inscribed in honor of Ptolemy Epi- 
phanes, who in 195 B.C. had remitted 
the taxes of the clergy — was found in 
1798 near Rosetta, Egypt, hence called 
the Rosetta Stone. Through this, the 
mystery of the meaning of hiero- 
glyphics was solved. Cp. focus. 


See effrontery. 


See alkahest. Height is from AS. 
hiehthu, from high, common Teut., AS. 


See jackanapes. 

hike, hiker. 
See coward. 

hippodrome, hippopotamus. 

See dromedary, mess. 

most work was performed on other 

history, histrionics. 
See plot. 

hitch, hitch-hike. 
5"^^ coward. 


See weather. 


See Appendix II. 

See hocus-pocus. 

hobby, hobgoblin. 
See donkey. 


\\ hen persons drank together, tlicy 
used to remark : "Come what may." 
Or an early variation of the thought : 
hob and nob; hob a nob; hobnob, from 
ME. habnab, from liabbe -\- nabbe, from 
AS. haebbe, to have -f- ne, not -|- haebbe : 
"Have and have not !" Thus to hobnob 
came to mean to associate familiarly. 
In grimmer guise, the phrase has been 
revived in "the haves and the have- 
nots," who seldom hobnob. 

Hobson's choice. 

See Appendix II. 


While the magician is babbling mock 
Latin ("double talk" of learned sound) 
before the transformation, he indulges 
in hocus-pocus. This term for foolery 
comes from the words he is supposed 
to utter, which themselves are a de- 
basing; of the Catholic sacrament, 
changing bread into the body of the 
Son of the Lord : Hoc est corpus filii, 
This is the body of the Son. VVhen 
the formula is completed, the transfor- 
mation is announced with a Presto- 
Chang e-0! (Cp. prestige.) Sometimes 
the magic formula is given as hocus 
Pocus filiocus; it is shortened — Say ho- 
cus quickly! — to (what we now know 
it to be:) a hoax. Cp. patter; scurry. 

See amphigory. 

hireling. hold (of a ship). 

See Viking. Hire, AS. hyr, is not This is the place that holds the 

known in most of the Teut. tongues; cargo; but it used to seem more like 



hell to those that worked on it. The 
word is earlier Eng. hole, from Du. hoi, 
hollow, a common Teut. word, related 
to hell, from AS. helan, to hide. 

There is still a tendency to add d 
or t to certain English words : "He 
was almost drownded ;" "You varmint" 
(vermin) are colloquial samples; it has 
become affixed in many words, e.g., 
hazard (Sp. azar) ; peasant (Fr. pay- 
san) ; ancient ( - ensign, as in Shake- 
speare) ; tyrant (Fr. tyran). 


See hold. 

holiday, hollyhock. 

See holy. 

See element. 


See catholic. 


.S>(' -.vcalth. From the idea of ex- 
cellent, then perfect, came the notion 
that it must have the protection of 
the Lord. Note that holy day and holi- 
day are doublets (the first, solemn; 
the second, for rejoicing). Hollyhock 
is from holyhock : hoc (mallow) from 
the Holy Land. Halibut is from ME. 
holihutte, a hutte (flounder) eaten on 
holy days ; cp. butt. 


The common sandstone used for 
sailors to scrub their decks was soft 
and full of holes; hence, holey stone. 
The e dropped out of the word be- 
cause those using it know no case ; 
chiefly, because the sailors had to work 
with it kr.cclinr? — hence holy. 


To pay homage to someone was once 
literal : a payment of fees and acknowl- 
edgement that you are his man, from 
LL. homoticum, from L. homo, man. 

Note that Gr. homos means same; 
cp. homo — ; racy. 


See dollar. Home is (as one might 
expect) a common Teut. word, OE. 


See homo-. 



See bed. 


See shed. 


Sec homo — . 

homo — . homoeo — . 

To many persons, the / seems most 
important ; an i was once most important 
in Catholic doctrine. For the first oecu- 
menical (Gr. oikumene, the inhabited 
earth, i.e., universal ; from oikos, dwell- 
ing) council of the Church, called under 
Constantine the Great, at Nice in Asia 
Minor in 325. condemned the Arian 
heresy. Arius was a presbyter of Alex- 
ander in the 4th c, who maintained that 
Jesus the Son was of like essence or sub- 
stance to the t"ather, but not the same. 
From Gr. homos, same, and Gr. homoios, 
like, + ousia, essence, come the names for 
the heresy, homoiousian, and for the ac- 
cepted doctrine, homoousian. 

As prefixes (with their opposite, 
hetero — , from Gr. heteros, other) these 
give us many English words. Among 
them are heterogeneous, cp, racy; homo- 
logous (Gr. logos, order) ; homoeopathy, 
cp. apathy (like cures like) ; homonym, 
cp. pscudo — . Anomaly is from Gr. an, 
not. -f homalos, even, from homos, same. 

When New York eliminated an extra 
charge for "Grade A" milk by ordaining 
just one quality, the companies found 
another more costly form: they spread 
the cream evenly throughout tlie milk, so 
that it is "made all one kind" : homo- 
genised. (Homo -(- genus, kind, -}- -ize, 
from Gr. izein. Via LL. -izare, this is a 
most frequent ending, in the sense of to 
make, to do : monopolize. Gr. monos, 
alone; colonize, cp. colonel; oxidize; 
jeopardize, cp. jeopardy; Americanize f 
Boivdlcrize. It is still a live ending, and 
may be added to proper names, in the 
sense vof to behave or to treat like.) 

Note that L. homo, homin — , means 


See homo — ; racy. 


See uncle. 


See mealy-mouthed. 


See conch. 




Sec defeat. 


.Srt" adder. 

See shipshape. 

hoop, hoopoe. 
See cough. 


See caboose. 

See gallop. 

See desperado. 


Although earlier called Scotch-hop- 
pers, this has nothing to do with men 
in kilts. It means simply line-leapers, 
as the game carries them over. The 
scotch is from OFr. escoche, from to 
cut, from cache, a notch, nick : the 
lines for the game were marked into 
the ground. Hence the use of scotch 
as a verb, to injure, to destroy. 


Sec ^rble. 

See bugle. 

horrible, horrid. 
Sec abhor. 

hers de combat; hers d'oeuvre. 

See door. 





See court. 




Through OFr., from L. hospitalis, 
this was originally a place of rest and 
entertainment. Then it was applied es- 
pecially to the establishments of the 
Knights Hospitallers, military monks 
whose order was founded in Jerusalem 
c. 1048, and who cared for poor pil- 
grims to the Holy Land. (At first 


they were known as the Knights of the 
Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem ; 
then — having moved their headquarters 
— as the Knights of Malta ) From their 
use comes our modern sense of hos- 
pital. The L. hospttare, to receive as 
a guest, gives us tiie word host. Hos- 
pitaller, hospitaler, hosteler, and ostler 
are various forms of the one word: 
often the man who entertains or re- 
ceives a guest must trke care of his 
horses, and the last two spellings have 
been kept to designate the stableman 
at an inn. But the passive form hos- 
pitari, hospitati — , means to be a guest ; 
and the word host for a time was used 
either for the man that entertains or 
the one that is entertained. From the 
more mundane form of entertainment 
the word hostelry continues ; its Fr. 
form ostelcrie, today ho telle rie, has 
given both Fr. hotel and Eng. hotel. 
Hospice is another form, less fre- 
quent today. Hospital, by apiiesis, be- 
came spital; since many Eng. words 
end in le or el, this was sometimes 
spelled j/>i7//f— whence, by association 
with another meaning of spit (C)E. 
spitu, G. spitzen, onomatopoetic), spit- 
tle : a clot of saliva, spital came to be 
used for a shelter for the sick poor, 
hence a disgusting or loathsome place. 
Hostage, which early meant entertain- 
ment, became intertwined with OFr. 
otage, from L. cbsidatus, from obses, 
obsidis, hostage, from obsidere, from 
ob. before, against, in the way of -}- 
sidere, to sit (from this word comfes 
the verb obsess, originally to besiege ; 
then obsession, a besieging ; now the 
constant assailing of a fixe<l idea. 
Obsidional is still the military term, 
relating to a siege; also, the obsidional 
crown is the garland given a Roman 
general that raised a siege. The stone 
— volcanic rock — called obsidian is an 
error, in editions of Pliny, for L. 
obsianus, so called because it resembled 
a stone found in Ethiopia by a man 
named Obsius.) From this interfusion, 
hostage came to mean a pledge given 
for the fulfilment of a promise, then 
a person held as such security. 

Host (Fr. hole, from L. hospitctn) 
has several senses. It means one that 
entertains, from the derivations given 
above. But also (OFr. host, oost, army, 
from L. hostis, stranger, enemy : note 
the one word for an outsider and cl 
foe!) it means an armed force; then, 
any multitude. Related to the meaning 
of enemy, hostile, (OFr. oiste, from 



L. hostia) is the meaning, victim for 
sacrifice; then, Christ in that aspect; 
then, the bread or wafer consecrated 
in the Eucharist. In this sense it also 
remains as hostie . . . Thus the man 
that extends hospitality to a host is not 
far from the injunction of Christ to 
love his enemies. 

hospitaler, hospitaller, host, hostage, 
hosteler, hostelry, hostie, hostile, 
See hospital ; cp. inn. 

See tatterdemalion. 


See greyhound. 


See color. 


See of. 


This word was first political, applied 
to the members of the Swiss Confedera- 
tion, 1518; then to the French reform- 
ers of 1560. (t is a corruption (by as- 
sociation with the old Fr. name Hugue- 
not, a double diminutive of Hugues) of 
dialect eiguenot, from G. Eidgenoss, 
oath - companion, from Eid, oath + 
Genoss, partner. 


See ink. 

human, humane, humanity. 

Sec uncle. Note that until the 18th c. 
Hitman and humane were interchangeable ; 
then humane grew restricted to such 
qualities as become a man : humanity may 
thus be associated with human, and mean 
mankind in general ; or it may be linked 
with humane, and apply to kindness, con- 
sideration, courtesy, charity (love of one's 
fellows) and the like. 


A recent book on gardening is called 
"A Sense of Humus" (L. humus, 
ground, soil ; cognate with Gr. chthon, 
as in Eng. autochthonous, on its own 
soil, native). To exhume is to take 
out' of the ground. The L. adj. humilis, 
on tlie ground, lowly, became Fr. hum- 
ble, whence Eng. humble, mainly in 
the figurative sense. Humiliate is the 
verbal form. "To eat humble-pie," 


meaning to submit to humiliation, is a 
transfer because of the sound, from 
umble-pie, a pie made of umbles, from 
numbles, the entrails of deer (OFr. 
nombles, by dissimilation from lombles, 
from L. lumbulus, diminutive of luin- 
bus, loin, whence Eng. lumbar and 
lumbago). For the way in which the 
n gets lost, cp. auction. 


In several tongues, the idea of hum- 
ming (an imitative word) is linked 
with jesting: e.g., Sp. zumbar, to hum, 
to joke ; Fr. bourde, humbug, bourdon, 
drone bee. The story is told of the 
students that carefully .put together the 
legs of a grasshopper, the body of a 
beetle, the head of an ant, and asked 
their professor what sort of bug this 
might be. "Did you catch it alive?" 
he asked them. "Yessir." ."Did it 
hum?" "Yessir." "Then," said the pro- 
fessor, "it must have been a humbug." 
It is also suggested that the name is 
corrupted from Hamburg, which during 
the Franco-Prussian War was the 
center of German propaganda ; but the 
transfer is probably the other way. An- 
other suggestion traces the word to 
Ir. uim bog, soft copper, referring to 
the worthless money with which King 
James II of England flooded the land, 
from the Dublin mint . . . Bug, in 
the slang sense, to cheat, means to 
sting as does an insect ; the man was 
stung. See attack. 


This has but vague memories of hum- 
ming and of drumming, being a redupli- 
cative sound imitative of boredom ; cp. 

humid, humidity. 

,S'(V complexion. 


Sec humble. 


Sec complexion. 


See luncheon. 

See globe. 


See humble; posthumous 



See luncheon. 


See number. 

See greyhound. 

See scurry. 


Wives, attention! Husband is the 
master of the house : AS. hiis, house 
-|- bdnda, freeholder ; cp. neighbor. Later 
was added the idea that he had a 
wife. {Wife, AS. wif, first meant just 
woman.) For a time husband also im- 
plied one that cultivates the soil ; but 
that sense was taken over by husband- 
man (one that husbands, manages thrift- 
ily). A despot is also the master of 
the house, from Gr. despotes, from 
dems, of a house or tribe -f- pot, from 
Potere, to be able, whence potent, po- 
tentate; whence Gr. detnein, L. domus, 
house. (Note the relation of despot 
and democracy, q.v. : government of the 
people but not by the people.) 


It is pleasing to think of each ear 
of com, cosy in its little house. And 
that is just the way it is, for husk is 
the diminutive of house, from Du. 
huisken, a little house, a case in which 
a thing is hidden. AS. hosa, a case, 
whence Eng. hose, stockings (then, 
flexible tube), influenced the shorten- 
ing of the word. The husky, dog, is 
probably just a shortening, Eski, of 
Eskimo. A husky throat is a dry one, 
as though from the dust after husking 
com (and you kiss the girl with the 
red ear). The one that has husked the 
most (in the frequent husking bees) 
is therefore a husky (strong) fellow. 


This word comes through Elast Euro- 
pean sources, from Hung, huszar via 
LGr. koursarios, from LL. cursarius, 
from cursus, raid, from L. currere, 
curs — , run. By the Romance route, 
from LL. cursarius come It. corsaro, 
whence corsare, whence Fr. corsaire, 
whence Eng. corsair. An excursion was 
first a sallying out, from L. excurrere, 
from ex, out -+- currere. Discourse was 
first a nmning to and fro; then, the 
process of reasoning; then, its corn- 


munication, from L. discurrere, as still 
in discursive and scurry, q.v. — perhaps 
related to scour (the countryside), from 
earlier noun scour, rush. Cp. car; cut- 
let; quarry; scourge. 

See adder. 

See flower; camelian. 


See otter. 

hydra, hydrant, hydrauUc. 

See drink, otter, wash; element: mer- 


See element, racy. 


See drink. 

See caduceus. 


See overture. 


See parlor ; overture. 


See aurora. 


See psychoanalysis. 


See overture. 


See overture; cp. garble. The idea 
being that if you answer a person 
back you must be (from that person's 
point of view) insincere. It seems hard 
to believe that your opponent believes 
in his point of view. 


See Spoonerism, 


If not hysteria in general, at least 
that form we know as hysterics is more 
common among women than among 
men; it was earlier called mother-sick- 
ness. The Greeks named it similarly : 
from hysterikos, from hystera, womb, 
whence L. and Eng. uterus. 


5"^^ helicopter. 


Sec daedal. Icarian is also used of the 
communist communities founded by the 
followers of Etienne Cabet. 1788—1856, 
whose I'oyagc en Icarie (1840) pictured 
such a community. 


Sec iron. 


See crocodile. 


See States. 

— ide. 

See cyanide. 


This word is Gr. idea, look, from idein, 
to see. In Plato (Gr. philosopher named 
Aristocles, 427 ?— 347 ; called Plato from 
his broad shoulders; cp. vessel) the word 
shifted to most of its present meanings. 
From look grew the sehs? of conception 
of what is to come (look it over and 
see) ; hence, a pattern in the mind, an 
ideal (i.e., not real) picture. From this 
sense of ideal — since the mental picture is 
usually better than reality — came the ideal 
toward which we strive. Cp. Platonic. 


See idea. 

idiom, idiosyncrasy. 

Sec idiot. 


When Jeremy Taylor says "Humility 
is a duty in great ones, as well as in 
idiots," he is using the word in its 
early Eng. sense, directly from Gr. 
idiotes, private persons, from idios, own, 
peculiar. (Note that peculiar, once 
meaning individual, unique, now means 

odd, queer.) Private persons were those 
that held no public office; gradually, 
those unfit or unable to hold public 
of t ice; hence, mentally deficient. From 
the same word we have idiom, an 
expression peculiar to one language. 
Idio — is used as a combining form, 
a prefix, in a number of words, the 
most common perhaps being t^io- 
syncrasy: idio, peculiar -f- •^.V"', together 
-|- crasis, mi.xture, combination. 

Problems in tlie mathcmntics class 
often start with the word Given. This 
sounds more formal than a mere // — 
yet the two are one. // is aphetic for 
AS. gif, given: granted that, assuming. 
Thence to the beggars on horseback. 

See meteor. 


An ignorant person (from L. ig- 
norare, present participle ignorant — , 
not to know, from ig, from in, not 
-\- gnorare, to know) is an ignoramus. 
This is taken directly from Latin, being 
the first person plural of the present 
tense: we do not know. It was that 
word which the Grand Jury used to 
write on the back of indictments they 
could not hold for trial ; but when they 
came to be called the "ignoramus jury," 
they changed the wording to "No true 
bill." To ignore meant first, not to 
know; socially, if you do not (care 
to) know a person, you ignore him. 

ignorant, ignore. 

See ignoramus ; cp. knick-knack. 

See element. 

See States. 




illuminate, illustrate, illustration, 

See limn. 


This word, though it means without 
stick (from L. itn, from in, not -\-bacil- 
lum, walking-stick, from baculus, staff; 
cp. bacteria) has no reference to spar- 
ing the rod and spoiling the child. It 
first referred to bodily strength, and 
meant one that needed a staff to sup- 
port himself ; without it, he was helpless. 


See bavardage. 


See island. 


See mail ; trammel. 


See irrelevant. 

immediate, immigrate. 

Sec immunity. 


The teeth that grind are the molars, 
from L. molaris, from mola, millstone. 
The Aryan root mal, to grind, spread 
widely, as hunting tribes took up agri- 
culture: Gr. mele, mill; AS. melo, 
whence Eng. meal; Du. maal; L. molere, 
to grind. Thus mill has antecedents in 
AS. my In and L. molinum; since grain 
was often ground by pounding, to mill 
(as in boxing) may mean to pound 
around. The maelstrom is from Du. 
maalstroom, from malen, to grind, -|- 
stroom, stream. To sprinkle with meal 
in preparation for sacrifice was L. im- 
molate, immolat — , whence, Eng. immo- 


See remorse. 

immortal, immortelle. 

See remorse. 


In olden times, public service was 
rather an obligation than something 
sought ; but after a time certain per- 
sons or classes were granted immunity — 
whence the term came to mean exemp- 
tion from any inconvenience; then, from 
disease. L. in, im, not -|- munia, serv- 
ices, gifts; muntis, muner — , gift, from 

mwicrare, viuiicral^ mcaniiip botli to 
give and to discliarge tlie duties of an 
office; in the first sense L. re, back, 
in return for, gives remunerate. The 
basic idea is of mutual excliaiiKc; tlic 
group that together is bound for mu- 
tual service is the comDiiinity, from L. 
conununis, whence Eng. c(»niiton; 
through AS. geinaene, whence Eng. 
mean, q.v., common, general. From the 
sense of general this word came to 
mean vulgar (L. vulgus, the common 
people, similarly deteriorating), tlience 
base — whence some tend to attribute it 
to (as it may be influenced by) Icel. 
meinn, base, hurtful, from the Aryan 
root mi, to lessen, whence niinish, 
diminish; cp. meticulous. 

Mean, in the sense of intend, is a 
common Teut. form, from OHG. tneina, 
thought, from OHG. niinni, whence 
Eng. mind. In the sense of inter- 
mediate — the golden mean — it is from 
L. medianus, whence Eng. median, its 
doublet, from L. mcdins, middle ; 
whence also mediate : immediate means 
with nothing between. To stick one- 
self in the middle is to meddle, though 
influenced by OFr. mesler, from LL. 
misculare, from L. misccre, mixtus, to 
mix, whence promiscuous. 

Municipal is from L. municipalis, per- 
taining to a town (L. tnunicipium) that 
had been granted rights of Roman 
citizenship: municeps, municipi — , a free 
citizen, one that takes office, from 
munia, oii'\ces -\- capere, capt — , to take, 
whence Eng. capture; cp. manoeuvre. 
Munificent is likewise from L. muni — , 
gifts + ficare, from facerc, to make. 

The root of this word is in Sansk. 
mayate, he exchanges, which leads also 
to other fonns. L. meare, meat — , to 
go, whence Eng. permeate (L. per, 
through) : if she be made of permeable 
stuff, as Hamlet remarks of his mother. 
The frequentative of meare is miqrare, 
migrat — , to wander ; whence migrate, 
emigration, immigration. Another form 
from the same root is mutare, mutat — , 
to change: whence mutable; commute 
(which first meant to exchange, as 
from a severe to a lighter penalty : "her 
sentence," says Macaulay, "was com- 
muted from burning to beheading ;" 
then to permit a lump payment instead 
of smaller sums : by such a lump pay- 
ment one might buy a commutation 
ticket, such as a commuter uses on 
daily trips between city and suburbs, 
when he commutes) ; permutation: and 



the goal of the middle ages, recently 
attained : transmutation of the elements 
(not the only reason for believing we 
are still in the dark ages of mankind's 

In similar fashion leisure gets its 
meaning : through Fr. loisir, from OFr. 
leisir, it is from L. licere, to be per- 
mitted, i.e., to be permitted to refrain 
from giving service. One that thus re- 
frains is probably lazy; but laay is 
just a shortening of earlier layserly, 
leisurely. From the present participle 
of licere, licens, licent — , comes licentia, 
whence Eng. license, permission, free- 
dom. Since this was frequently carried 
too far, there soon came the meaning 
held also in the adjective licentious. 
A licentiate was a friar authorized to 
hear confessions; then, a person granted 
a university licefise to practice a pro- 
fession. A lycee, however, is Fr. for 
lyceum; cp. Platonic. 


See graft. 

See propaganda. 

See pessimist. 


5"^^ palace. 

impassable, impassible. 
See pass. 

See dispatch. 


Here is a word that remains only in the 
negative. Sinning is so general that the 
word sinful is most frequent; hence sin, 
very common Teut., from the present 
participle of the root es, to be : to exist 
is to be a sinner. "In Adam's fall, We 
sinned all." But to be exempt from sin 
is so rare that we have kept the L. nega- 
tive form, Eng. impeccable, from L. in, 
not, -f peccare, to sin — which has other- 
wise lapsed through the It. into a mere 

impede, impediment. 

See baggage. 

See pelt. 



See empire. 


See plagiarism. 

implicit, imply. 
See complexion. 

import, important, importunate, 
See port. 

See pose. 

impost, imposter. 

From L. imponere, impositum, then im- 
postum, to place upon or against, come 
literal and figurative uses ; cp. pose. The 
literal pervade? impost, a pillar upon 
which an arch is placed — or a levy that 
taxes your merchandise ; the figurative 
controls the imposter, who taxes your 

See precarious. 

See spouse. 


See command. 

See improvised. 


The man that, saying he had not 
expected to be called upon to speak, 
draws four pages of notes from his 
pocket, has a talk neither impromptu 
(L. im, from in, not + promere, promp- 
tus, to put forth, from pro, forward 
-\- emere, emptus, to take, to buy. Hence 
also preempt, to take before; cp. ran- 
som.) nor extemporaneous (L. ex, out 
-|- tempus, tempor — , time : on the spur 
of the moment. Hence also temporary ; 
cp. Pylorus) nor improvised' (L. im, 
from in, not -}- pro, before -|- videre, 
visu—, to see; not seen ahead). 

The L. videre, visu — has a long 
train. "The wa.y I see it," I advise 
you (L. ad, to -|- visu — ) ; the shift 
in spelling — advice; prophecy, prophesy 
— is artificial ; as also in devise and 
device (L. de, down: things seen down; 
the first meaning was, a detail). To 
distinguish, to see apart, is to divide; 
hence also division. {Vision is of course 




more directly beholden.) A unity, not 
divided, is an individual. Provide and 
provident are from L. providcre, to 
see before; revise, to see anew; evident. 
seen out, clearly. To see into, to fix 
the eyes on, was L. invxdere : why one- 
gazed in this fashion we learn from the 
noun, L. invidia, whence Eng. eni'v 
This is via the Fr., whence also envious; 
directly from the L. comes the doublet 
invidious; cp. supercilious. 

Visual, visible, invisible, are other 
words from the L. visus, face, or 
videre, visu — , to see. But see widow. 

By way of the French come still 
more. L. visus, whence OFr. vis (sur- 
viving in vis-a-vis, face to face) gives 
Fr. and Eng. visage; envisage. L. insi- 
tare, a double frequentative, from 
visere, visit — , from vis — , yields Eng. 
visit, to see often. The verb videre 
became OFr. veier, whence Fr. voir, vu; 
whence clairvoyant (Fr. clair, clear) ; 
view; interview (Fr. entrevue) ; re- 
vue (a satiric seeing again) ; revie^v. 
Providens was shortened to priidens, 
whence prudent, seeing ahead — and Fr. 
and Eng. prude (q.v.), which originally 
meant wise. The wisdom of the law 
is crystallized in jurisprudence (L. jtts, 
juris, law). Audiences like a previezv; 
but actors in a revue should improvise 
only when the police pay them a visit. 

See pygmy. 


See pelt. 


See curfew. 

See inn (the same word). 


See audit. 


See auction. 


See candid ; free. 


.SVf trance. 


See cancel. 


See sarcophagus. 


Sec free. 


Songs have many moods. One may 
liuni a song, with not a care in the 
world. Or one may sing a sailors' 
shanty, to help him at his work. Or 
yell out a chant as a summons to war, 
almost a battle-cry. If you strike up 
the tune for someone, you are starting 
him on his way — perhaps even suggc^l- 
ing the direction. You are giving him 
an incentive: for incentive is from L. 
inccntivus, setting the tune, from in- 
cincre, to begin, from canerc, to sing. 
The frequentative of canere is canlare, 
cantat — , whence cantata; via Fr. 
chanter, chant and shanty. (Shanty, a 
hovel, is from Fr. chantier, a work- 
shop, possibly from Gr. cantherios, 
pack-ass, but more probably the same 
canere, from singing at one's work.) 
The Aryan root is han, chan; whence 
both chant and AS. hanna, rooster, 
hen, whence Eng. hen. Cp. saunter. 


See manoeuver. 

See uncle. 


This represents a modern method 
of waste disposal, but in connection 
with war and death it is an olden word, 
from LL. incinerare, incinerat — , to re- 
duce to ashes, from L. in -f cinis, 
cincr — , ashes, whence Fr. cendre, 
whence Eng. cinder — though also AS. 
sindcr. dross, slag. The diminutive, Fr. 
ccudrillon, gives us our Cinderella. 

Cinderella's story exemplifies the fate 
of forgotten words: they cliange into 
known ones. Thus Cinderella wore — 
and lost — une petite pantoufte de vair 
... a little slipper of fur (vair, sable, 
weasel ; still the Eng. word, vair, cor- 
rupted in some localities to fairy, 
weasel). But the .scribe or translator, 
not knowing this dying word, instead 
of 7'air used verre (with the same 
sound) : I'erre, glass. Hence the odd 
little slipper of glass for Prince 
Charming. Sable was worn by royalt\, 
as in Flamlet 111,2. 

Another instance is that of Dick 
Whittington, the first great trader of 



London, who furnished the cloth of 
gold for the bridal of Henry IV's 
daughter, in 1401. He was an acatour, 
now caterer. The old verb was acat, 
from OFr. achat, whence Fr. acheter, 
to buy ; but the word was lost, leaving 
liltic Dick with a cat! 

There are two lost words in the re- 
mark about never setting the Thames 
on fire : one masculine, and one fem- 
inine. The terns was an old word for 
a cake — such as Alfred the Great let 
burn when affairs of state were on his 
mind : He'll never set the tents on fire 
means he'll never have serious thoughts. 
But the temse was the wooden tube 
in wliich the piston of the old spinning 
wheel ran up and down ; if one worked 
hard, this might begin to smoke ; and 
She'll never set the temse on fire 
means she is not industrious. Both 
these words lapsed from the language, 
leaving the river Thames to take the 
conflagration ... I have at least seen 
the Gowanus Canal on fire! (The same 
expression is used of many other 
streams, without such stories, which are 
probably folk-etymology.) 

f'airy — not the weasel — first meant, 
the land of the fay, from Fr. faerie, 
from fee, from L. fata, one of the 
fates. Elf, a subordinate (and. more 
malignant) variety of fairy, is from AS. 
aelf, from OHG. alp, nightmare ; cp. 
marshal. Kohold was a proper name ; 
also, goblin, diminutive of Gobel, from 
OHG. Godbald, God-bold. It is sug- 
gested that the immediate cause of 
goblin was the manufacture, by Jean 
Gobelin (d. 1467) of such a fine scarlet 
dye for his tapestries, folks thought 
he must be in league with the devil. 
Cp. insect. 

See manoeuver. 

incision, incisive, incisor. 

.Trr shed. 


See climate. 


Sec pylorus. Enclose is through the 
French; inclose has a closer tie to the 

See close. This is a doublet of inclose. 


See irrelevant. 


See royal. 


See attract. 

incubate, incubation, incfUbator, 

See marshal. 

See damage. 


See indenture. 


The indentured servant that came to 
the American colonies, exchanging some 
years' work for his passage, his keep 
and then his freedom in the New 
World, bore with him a duplicate of his 
master's agreement. To prevent trick- 
ery, the two copies were dented, or 
simply written on one sheet and torn, 
so that they must match. Indent is 
from L. in, in + dens, dent — , tooth, 
whence Eng. dentist. The dandelion is 
by way of Fr. dent; cp. flower. Tooth 
itself is from AS. toth, from OHG. 
cand; closely related to L. dens, dent — , 
from Gr. odon, odont — . whence Eng. 
odontology ; mastodon (Gr. mast — , 
breast : from the nipple-like projections 
on the teeth) ; trident (L. tri, three). 
Sansk. danta, taoth; adana, food, from 
admi, I eat, whence Gr. edein, to eat, 
whence L. edere; AS. etan, whence 
Eng. eat. Edible comes directly from 
the L. The OHG. ezzcn, whence MHG. 
etzcn (G. essen) gives us etch, to eat 
with acid. The intensive form, OHG. 
frezzan, to consume, whence AS. fretan, 
whence Eng. fret, which first meant 
literally to eat away ; then, to be gnawed 
with care. L. obedere, obes — , to de- 
vour {ob, intensive, -|- ^cffr^, to eat) 
has worked both ways. At first it was 
applied to a person eaten away, very 
lean ; then, to one that devoured all he 
could, and became very fat. The fat 
meaning of obese has devoured the lean 
one. Cp. ache. 

From the intensive fr — came G. ver — ^ a 
frequent prefix in G., e.g., lassen, to 
leave ; verlassen, to abandon , leben, to 
live; verlebt, played out, decrepit. It is 
cognate with L. per (see Grimm's Law 
in the Preface) and is intensive from 



its meaning of forth or through or 
thorough : compare perjure and for- 
swear. In Eng. it became the prefix 
for — , as in many obsolete words like 
fordone, fordrunkcn, forwandered 
(weary with wandering), forfrighted, 
fordrcad. It is no longer a living pre- 
fix (tliat is, no new words are formed 
with it) ; but it survives in forbid, 
forijo, fort/ive, forlorn, forsaken. Note 
that fori,-ard is really an older fore + 
ivard, toward the front. Fore, before 
(with L. cognate pre, prae, pro, and 
Gr. pro, para. Pari: see Grimm's Lazv; 
compare predict and forecast) is also 
a frequent prefix, as in forebear (but 
not forbear). Forcrvarned is forearmed. 

independence, independent. 

See aggravate. 

Sec destroy. 


This is the noun. L. index, indie — , from 
indicarc, to make known, to point out, 
whence indicate; see verdict. Its first 
meaning was the forefinger, the pointer. 
As a table of contents, pointing out what 
is in a book, the plural is indexes (Eng. 
form) : for most other uses, the L. plural 
is retained, indices. 

The L. indicare is from L. in, against, 
4- dicere, diet-, to speak against, to single 
out. Hence also (ME. enditen, via Fr. 
enditer; hence the pronunciation) Eng. 
indict and indictment. 

See States. 

See teach, index, verdict, 

See suffer. 


See racy. 


See supercilious. 

See red. 

Sec element. 


See improvised. 



See doctor. 


Doleful is a hybrid word, the AS. 
suffix — ful on OFr. dol, doel, whence 
Fr. deuil, grief, from L. dolor, grief, 
from dolere, to grieve, perhaps related 
to Aryan dar, to tear. The L. suffix 
for 'full of,' — osus, whence Fr. — eux, 
whence Eng. — ous, gives us Eng. 
dolorous; cp. supercilious. We have 
taken the L. noun directly, as dolour, 
dolor. But a man that does not grieve 
is probably at ease; hence, indolent 
(L. in, not) came to its present mean- 
ing. Cp. dole. 

See diamond. 

Sec duke. 


Sec lent. 


See destroy. 

See intoxicate. 


See nefarious. 

See lasso. 


This word first meant lack of skill 
or power (from L. in, not -|- orj, art — , 
art), then the sluggishness that follows 
such lack. Hence, the scientific use, 
as meaning resistance to change. 


See vacuum. 


An oration is something that comes 
out of the mouth, from L. os, or — , 
mouth, whence orare, orat — , to speak, 
to pray. Hence oral; orator; oratorio 
(originally, service in the oratory, from 
L. oratorium, prayer room). Something 
you should pray to is adorable; adore, 
from L. ad, to -f- orare, to pray. An 
oracle (let no dogs bark!) is from L. 
oraculum, a little mouth — producing the 
still, small voice of destiny. But some- 
thing out of which you cannot pray 



yourself (L. in, not + ex, out of) is 
indeed inexorable. 

See fate. 

See infantry. 


An infant is, quite naturally, one that 
is unable to speak (L. in, not, -\- fans, 
speaking, from fori, to speak. Thus 
nefarious, from L. nefas, wrongly 
spoken ; and multifarious, originally, 
speaking many tongues). The It. in- 
fante, youngster, led to infanteria, 
those too inexperienced or otherwise 
unqualified for cavalry; hence, Elng. 
infantry. The Infanta is the Sp. prin- 
cess, not heir to the throne. 

infect, infection. 
See attain, defeat. 

See suffer. 

inferior, infernal, Inferno. 
See under. 


See finance. The in of course means 
not; but the difference between the 
finite and the infinite that is of con- 
cern is that, in the range of the 
infinite, the whole is no greater than 
some of its parts. Infinity plus what- 
ever number you please, plus or times 
or minus infinity itself, is still infinity. 
See googol. 


This is a place where you get fixed ; 
but literally, a place for those not solid: 
L. in, not -f- firmus, solid: cp. farm -\- 
arium, a place ending, as in aquarium. 
L. firmare, firmat — , to make solid, to 
confirm {con is intensive; cp. commence), 
gave us not only confirm but the business 
firm: not that it is always well-estab- 
lished : but the word firm first meant a 
confirmation; hence, a signature; hence, 
the trade name of the company ; hence, 
the company. With L. af, ad, to, the 
answer is in the affirmative. 

A synonym of L. firmus was L. validus, 
strong, worthy, from valerei valid — , to be 
strong, to have worth. In addition to 
Eng. valid and iKilue (see verdict), this 
gives us Eng. valor, invalid (not worth 
anything); invalid (a sick person; from 
the Fr. accent) ; and to no avail. 


inflame, inflammation, inflation. 

See fiamingo. 

influence, influx. 
See affluent. 

infra — , infrared. 
See under. 

5"^^ futile. 

See racy. 

See nugget. 

See expose. 


See remnant. 

initial, initiate. 

See commence. The L. initium is from 
in, into, + ire, it — to go; hence the use 
of initiation as the ceremony of going in- 
to, or beginning in a special group or 

See subject. 


This word (from OFr. enque, from 
L. encaustum, from Gr. enkaustos, 
burnt in) was, in its L. form, the 
name of the purple-red fluid with 
which the official documents of the 
later Roman Emperors were signed. 
The L. accent varied ; our word is from 
an accent on the first syllable; accent 
on the second syllable produced It. 
inchiostro, ink. From the original Gr. 
meaning come our Eng. words caustic 
and encaustic. If you use just a little 
ink — give just an intimation of the sub- 
ject — you offer an inkling; but the 
word is derived from an older verb^ 
to inkle, related to a root AS. ink, 
from imt, to murmur, mutter, like old 
Teut. um — , Eng. hum etc. The imi- 
taMve sound hum was early used, also, 
in the sense of to joke, to trick, as 
in humbug (OE. hum, to ioke-\- bug, 
ghost, as in bugaboo; cp. tnsect). 

See ink. 

See inn. 




The pleasant places that pun their in- 
vitation : Dew Drop Inn, have etymol- 
ogy on their side ; for inn is merely 
AS. inn, from inne, within, inside 
(whence in, inner and inmost) ; it was 
a sign used to indicate rest and refresh- 
ment within. Refreshment (re, again) 
is from AS. fersc, not salt, combined 
with the more general sense of fresh 
in Fr. frais and OHG. frisc; whence 
also frisky. The fresh you want to slap 
is from OHG. frech, whence AS. free; 
whence freak : to get fresh is to be 
freakish— ^r to want too much, for AS. 
free means eager, akin to ON. frekr, 
greedy ; as also G. fressen, to gobble, 
irom essen, to eat. 

Refreshment is re-creation, from L. 
creare, creat — , see Creole. But since all 
work and no play makes Jack {see 
jackanapes) a dull boy ; re-creation has 
come to include recreation (that's why 
we need the hyphen to indicate the orig- 
inal sense). Similarly restaurant (which 
might seem to be from rest au errant, 
rest to the wandering) is the present 
participle of OFr. restaurer, from L. 
restaurare, to repair, from re, back, 
again -|- Gr. stauros, stake : to fix the 
fence. In its other OFr. form, restorer, 
it gives us restore and restoration. Cp. 
errand, attic. 

Hotel, from Fr. hotel, from OFr. 
hostel, is the place to find the L. 
hospes, which means both host and 
guest; see hospital. Tavern is from L. 
tahema, hut : its diminutive, L. taher- 
naculum, booth, gives us tabernacle. 
This is related to L. tabula, plank, 
whence Eng. table; its diminutive via 
Fr. tablette gives us tablet. Directly 
from the L. is tabula rasa, scraped tab- 
lei, clean slate, Fr. carte blanche, white 
card. Whereon we could start all over. 

See inn. 

innocent, innocuous, inoculate. 

See nuisance. 

inquest, inquire, inquisition. 
See exquisite. 

See shrine. 


You may have seen the men at the 
popular beaches, in late fall or early 
winter when the crowds are gone, comb- 


ing for treasure-trove ; hence beach- 
comber. Or looking through the town 
dump ... or the city garbage cans. 
The practice is an ancient one : L. scru- 
tari, to examine, is from scruta, trash, 
refuse. The L. noun scrutinium, inspec- 
tion, gives us Eng. scrutiny. Inscruta- 
ble: that which cannot be looked into. 


Look at a few bugs; the first thing 
you notice is that they are all notched 
or cut in, towards the middle. Insect 
is short for L. animal insectum (»n- 
secare, insect — , to cut into) which it- 
self is a translation from the Gr. en- 
tomon (entos, within -|- temnein, to cut. 
See anatomy), which gives us entomol- 
ogy. The word bug is of unknown ori- 
gin ; save that Welsh bwg, ghost, gives 
us the bug in bugbear, bugaboo (Boo!) ; 
also the hobgoblin variously spelled 
bogy, bogie, bogey, and (north Eng.) 
bogle. The fact that such a thing is 
pretended has led to the suggestion that 
it is the origin of the U. S. term 

5"^^ strategy. 


See sap. 


Conduct to which one is unaccus- 
tomed seems rude; cp. uncouth. If some 
one came up to you and began to rub 
his nose against yours, you would think 
him at least insolent. He would be, lit- 
erally : from L. insokre, present parti- 
ciple insolent — , from in, not -|- sol ere, 
to be accustomed. -L. solari, to soothe, 
gives us solace (as -from the touch of 
an accustomed hand) and console (con, 
from com, together). Thus company 
brings consolation. A solecism, however, 
is an error in speech, a provincialism., 
such as might be found in the Greek 
spoken in Soloi, by the Athenian colon- 
ists in this town of Cilicia. 


See auction ; scourge. 


Plato says that when the poet func- 
tions properly, he is divinely inspired, 
possessed (cp. enthusiasm). He is 
breathed into by the god: (L. m, into 4- 
spirare, spirat — , to breathe). Breathing 
is a frequent process : conspire, to 




breathe together; respiration, breathing 
again and again — as in living ; perspire, 
to breathe through ; transpire, to breathe 
across (which means both to come to 
thf attention, and to sweat) ; aspire, to 
breathe towards ; expire, to breathe out 
(finally). Breath is an old word, but 
referred first to the steam or vapor of 
heated objects, or the visible ?ir exhaled 
in cold weather, from Ayran root 
bhre — , to bum. (There is an old Eng. 
word brede from this root, OE. braede, 
to heat, meaning roast meat, whence 
our food, sweetbread.) 


See tank. 


See pylorus. 


See attack ; distinct. 


The proper course of education goes 
little by little, as the ancients knew. 
They sealed their knowledge into the 
word instil, from L. in, into + stillare, 
to drop. Similarly, to distil (L. de, 
down -f stillare) is to flow down drop 
by drop, as in a still — which noun is 
aphetic for distil. The still, small voice 
is common Teut., related to ^tall, a 
.standing -^\3iCt for cattle ; see tank. 

See distinct. 

See season. 

instruct, instrument. 

See destroy. 

insulate, insulin. 
See island. 


Those that cry the boyhood jingle: — 

Sticks and stones may break my 

But words will never hurt me — 

are probably unaware that insult and 
assault were originally the same. L. 
satire, salt — , to leap, whence insilire, 
insult — , with its frequentative insultarc, 
to leap upon. Originally the word meant 
to attack physically; gradually the fig- 
urative sense of insult prevailed. L. ad. 

to. toward + satire, led to OFr. asalir, 
whence assaillir, whence ME. asaile, 
which in the 15th c. added another s and 
became Eng. assail. In both Fr. and 
Eng. a back-formation toward the L. 
produced OFr. asaut, whence ME. asaut, 
whence Eng. assault. (Similarly, fault 
is a restored spelling from ME. faut, 
from Fr. faute, but from L. fallita, a 
coming short : — OFr. faillir, to be want- 
ing, whence Eng. fail: L. fatlere, to 
deceive.) Cp. somersault. 


Sec funeral. 


Sec sorcerer. 


Sec deck. 

See taste. 

integer, integral, integrity, 

See deck. 

intellectual, intelligence, intelligentsia. 
See legible. 

intend, intense, intensify, intentional. 
See tennis. 

inter — . 
See under. 

See dickey. 

intercede, interest. 
See ancestor, under. 


The noun interference was formed as 
though from L. fore, to bear, like con- 
ference, difference; cp. suffer. But while 
this might refer to bearing or bringing be- 
tween, note that the verb ends in e, un- 
like differ, suffer, and the rest from 
ferrc. it may rather be from L. inter, 
between, -f- fcrirc. to strike. Thus Ol'r. 
s'entreferir, first used of the shoe of a 
horse striking the fetlock of the other leg. 
Perliaps from the same source is the 
ferule, a rod : L. ferula meant a rod, and 
was also applied to the giant fennel plant, 
of vvliich whipping rods were made. 

See suffer. 


Sec subject. 





See refrain. 

See subjugate. 


See tennis. 


Sec determine. 

See under. 


.S('(' q\iaint. 

See bank. 

See tank. 

See villain. 

See improvised. 


Sec test. 

See pylorus. 

See meticulous. 


The Gr. word for bow is toxon. 
Ascham in 1545 wrote a book entitled 
Toxophilus, lover of the bow. Then Gr. 
used toxikon for the poison in which 
the arrow was dipped ; hence Eng. 
toxin, toxic, antitoxin. LL. used intoxi- 
cate, intoxicat — , as to poison; but just 
as today when a man says "Name your 
poison" he is using "poison" to mean 
"liquor", so the word intoxicate was 
gradually, from its figurative applica- 
tion, limited to the temporarily poison- 
ous effects of too much liquor. Auto- 
intoxication is another medical term 
that keeps the stronger meaning. Ine- 
briate comes directly from L. inebriare, 
from ebrius, drunken, bria, cup ; sober 
is the opposite of "in his cups", from 
L. so, apart from + bria. Poison was 
originally a harmless draught (OFr. 
poison, from L. potionem, from potare, 
potiim, to drink; whence also potion. 

potable, and potation, and possibly pot, 
from which one may drink), but with 
the medieval practice of lethal bever- 
ages it took on its fatal sense. One 
man's potion is another man's poison. 
For tocsin, see touch. Cp. drink. 


See retrench. 

See terse. 

See intrigue. 


Delilah caught Sampson by his hair; 
but many more women have made 
snares of their locks, to entangle a man. 
Intricate is from L. intricare, intricat — , 
to entangle, from L. tricae, hairs, trif- 
les, from Gr. thrix, hair. From tlie It. 
form intrigare, whence Fr. intriguer, 
comes the plot to entangle, intrigue To 
get out of such a tangle is to extricate 
oneself, not always easy. 

5"^^ duke. 


See manoeuvre. 

See wade. 


Sec infirmary. 

invective, inveigh. 

Sec \ chicle. 


To inveigle someone, you must put 
(mental) blinders on him, as the word 
itself declares. It is earlier envegle, 
from F. enveogler, from eveugler, to 
make blind. This is from the Latin, but 
there is a lost step. A LL. form aboc- 
ulus may have come from alba oculus, 
white eye (which was used to mean 
blind), or from ab oculis, eyeless, from 
L. oculus, eye ; cp. monk. 

inverse, invert. 
See advertise. 


The practice of fitting out the young 
man in smart clothes before he went 
forth to make his fortune led to the early 



figurative use (It. investire, 13th c.) of 
invest, to clothe, in the sense of putting 
money into something with the hope of 
profit. While investment retains both 
senses, ini-estiture has only the physical. 
Both vestment and vestiment are good 
Eng. forms; the e dropped from OFr. 
vcstcmcnt ; but there is also OFr. vesti- 
ment, as the word is from L. vestirc, 
vestit-, to clothe, from vestis, clothing. 
It is from the Gr. kcsthcs, Sansk. vastra, 
garment. Thus a vest (though its first 
use was of the loose outer garment worn 
by men in the cast, and thus applied for 
a time to similar garments as worn by 
women in the west) has no relation to 
the vestal virgins, who were the servitors 
of L. l/'esta. the goddess of the hearth; 
as her Gr. form is Hestia. Without the 
capital, Gr. hestta means hearth, house- 
hold. From the duty of the four (later, 
six) vestal virgins to tend the sacred fire 
of I' est a in her temple at Rome, an early 
type of wax match was called a vesta. 

To 7'est a person with power is to 
clothe him therein ; hence, the vested in- 
terests. There may be some connection 
between vesta, household, and the diminu- 
tive vestibule, q.v. for other suggestions. 


Hunters on the trail of escaped slave 
or other quarry investigated the flight 
(L. in + vestigare, to track, from vesti- 
gium, footprint, mark left behind). 
From this, Fr. vestige gives us Elng. 
vestige; but vestigium is also used in 
Eng., of a vestigial organ, a trace of a 
part once larger and more fully used 
(as the vermiform appendix in humans, 
and the projection — once a rest — on the 
bowl of a pipe). 

Samuel Butler mentions other mechan- 
ical vestigia in his satiric Erewhon 
(read this title backwards; cp. Utopia), 

investiture, investment. 

See invest. 


See mutton. 


See improvised. 


See volume. 


You think of an antiseptic ; the Greeks 
thought of a flower. Iodine is from 
Gr. iodes, like a violet, from ion, vio- 
let — named after the color of its vapor. 
The ion in physics is from Gr. ion, 
present particple of ienai, to go. 

See element. 









See ire. 

The Irish are not etymologically the 
angry race (/r- seems to be from Eire; 
cp. Hibernia), though ire is from L. ira, 
wrath. Hence also L. iratus, whence 
Eng. irate; and the inceptive L. irasci, 
to grow angry, whence irascible. 

See Hibernia. 


See element. 

See flower. 

See Hibernia. 

After the rough utensils of the stone 
age, iron must have seemed smooth in- 
deed to those that changed from the 
more primitive type of tool and weapon. 
The Sansk. root is, to glide ( as on a 
smooth surface) may thus be behind 
both common Teut. forms : AS. Is, G. 
eis, ice; and OHG. isam, whence G. 
eisen; AS. isen, iren, whence iron. Thus 
iron is as smooth as ice. 

See element. 


See victoria. 

See braggadochio. 

5"^^ improvised. 

See discuss. 




See relief. 

Lawyers often move to have testi- 
mony stricken out, as "irrelevant, incom- 
petent and immaterial." The prefixes 
tV — , in — , and im — are, of course, all 
in, not, changing to suit the letter that 

Relevant is from L. relevare, present 
particple relevant, lifting up, from re, 
again + levare, rise, raise ( Eng. levant, 
place of the rising sun; cp. orient), 
hence, to assist, to be pertinent. 

Competent is from L. com, from cum, 
with + petere, petit — , to fly to, to seek, 
from Gr. petomai,\ fly. To compete is 
to seek together ; hence, competitor. But 
L. compctcre (present participle compe- 
tens, competent — ) meant also to solicit ; 
hence (it was assumed), to be suitable 

Material, from L. adjective materialis, 
from materia, matter, the basic sub- 
stance, is from Sansk. ma, to measure, 
to produce {mater, mother) -{- the Aryan 
suffix — tar, indicating the agent. 


See Aphrodite. 


Tlie old Dutch fishermen knew that 
the sturgeon bladder (huysenblas) was 
iridescent, and partly let light through; 
when they found a kind of stone with 
the same qualities, they just transferred 
the name. (Metaphor gives rise to 
many meanings.) The b changed to g 
because you can see through glass. Mica 
is named from its crumbling (L. mica, 
crumb, perhaps related to Gr. micron, 
particle, bit). Cp. remorse. 


The Mohammedan world takes its 
name from its devotion : islam is the 
Arab, verbal noun from aslama, to sur- 
render. Though they spread in conquest 
widely over the world, the Moslem or 
Mussiihnan (muslim is the present parti- 
ciple of the same verb) surrendered 
himself to the Lord. Once one has 
made such surrender, one is at peace ; 
the salaam of the Arab is from Arab. 
salam, peace; a greeting also used by 
tlie Jew, from Heb. shalom. 


The little word isle (from OFr. isle, 
from L. insula, island) has been a 
strong influence. It has, first, changed 
the unrelated word island, which earlier 


was Hand, from AS. iegland, from ieg, 
watery land. The land is redundant, 
added as the basic meaning of ieg 
dropped from the people's minds. Sec- 
ondly, isle has reached across into an 
entirely different field, to change the 
spelling of aisle, from Fr. aile, from 
L. ala, wing (applied to a building). 

The original L. word survives in Eng. 
peninsula, almost an island (L. pen, 
from paene, almost). It is indeed a 
bright little, tight little isle! 

Here is the home of the isolationist. 

To make something an island is to 
insulate it, or, via It. isolare and Fr. 
isoler, to isolate it from other things. 
The drug insulin (first isolated in 1922 
by Dr. F. G. Banting of the University 
of Toronto) was thus named because 
it comes from an island : the smaller 
glands of the pancreas, called, after 
their discoverer, the islands of Langer- 
hans. (An island in the body is a group 
of cells or bit of tissue entirely sur- 
rounded by material of a different 
structure ; thus, the central lobe of the 
cerebrum is the Island of Reil.) Don't 
let this rile you ... To rile is a form 
of roil, to make a liquid thick by 
stirring up the sediment ; hence, figu- 
ratively, to stir, to disturb, to annoy ; 
the origin is unknown but the action is 
frequent. One suggestion links roil with 
OFr. rouil, mud, rust, from a LL. type 
rubiculare, to rust, from L. rubigo, 
rust. Another shortens roil from broil, 
to quarrel, from Fr. brouiller, to mix 
confusedly; whence also embroil (em, 
in) and It. and Eng. imbroglio. The 
cooking broil first meant to char ; an 
earlier form was brule ; it is from Fr. 
bruler, to burn, from OFr. brusler — 
also of unknown origin. If you let 
nothing rile you, you may lead the life 
of Riley. [It is suggested that this 
phrase is from the easy ways not of 
an Irish gentleman, but of a Gypsy 
lord, from the Gypsy word rye, gen- 
tleman, changed by folk-etv-mology to a 
man's name. The word was made popu- 
lar by the book The Romany Rye (The 
Gypsy Gentleman, 1857) by George 
Borrow. It is from Sansk. raj, raya, 
lord, whence rajah. The maharajah is 
Hindu maha, great -f- raj. The feminine 
is maharanee. 

H. L. Mencken writes me that "the 
life of Reilly" — an expression more 
widespread in the U. S. than in Eng- 
land — grew popular after 1898, when 
Cliarlic Lawlor and James W. Blake 
(authors of the well-remembered "The 



Sidewalks of New York :" East Side, 
West Side, All Around the Town) 
wrote "The Best In the House Is 
None Too Good For Reilly." Edward 
B. Marks tells me that in 1899 his 
firm published the song "Everything 
at Reilly's must be done in Irish style;" 
but he inclines to attribute the spread 
of the expression to its use in the 
Harrigan and Hart plays, which pic- 
tured the Irish rising through police 
jobs and politics to prosperity.] 

isolate, isolationist. 
See island. 

See element. 


This consequence first referred to 
anything that came out, esp. offspring. 
It is by way of OFr. issir, from L. 
exire, exitus, from ex, out*|- ire, to go. 
Thus exit is its doublet. "This way to 
the egress" — which Barnum's barkers 
cried when the sideshows were too 

— ize 

crowded^takes us to L. e, ex, out + 
t/radire, gress — , to step — whence many 
words, from grade to progress. L. grad- 
ualis, step by step, gives us gradual; 
graduated means marked off by degrees, 
like a thermometer or a bachelor of 
arts; degree itself is a step (marked) 
down, akin to degrade, to put down a 
step. Digress is to step aside; trans- 
gress, to step across (the proper 
bounds) ; aggression is stepping to 
(what's not yours). The basic root 
(through Sansk. griddhra, greedy), is 
Aryan gardh, to desire, hence, to step 
toward. And, of course, progress is the 
forward march of mankind down the 
ages ! Cp. congress. 


See spinster. 

item, itinerary. 
See obituary. 

— ize. 

See homo-. 




See chatter, gibberish. 


See carnelian. 

Jack and Jill. 

See tag. 

Jack Ketch. 

Sec Appendix II. 

Jack Tar. 

See Appendix II. 


This word for a conceited upstart 
was a nickname of WiUiam de la Pole, 
Duke of Suffolk, murdered at sea in 
1450 ; his arms bore the clog and chain 
of a trained monkey. Possibly the end- 
ing means, of Naples; it is so used of 
other imports from that city-state; and 
there are records that through the 
early 15th c. apes were brought to Eng- 
land from Italy. The word ape itself 
is linked in, however; jack was a com- 
mon name, frequently attached to other 
terms : jackrabbit, jackass, jack-of-all- 
trades, jumping- jack, jackboot, jackdaw, 
jack-in-the-box, jackstraw (there was a 
Jack Straw, led the English common 
people's rising in 1381) jacktar, jack- 
knife, jack-o'-lantern. Brewer gives a 
list of seventy-four terms, from Jack 
Adams (a fool) to yellow jack, saying 
that Jack is used "always depreciating- 
ly," whereas Tom implies friendliness. 
Hiiack. of recent slang, is from jack, 
a hoist. 

jactation, jactitation. 
Sec wasp. 

See carnelian. 

See cabal. 


See month; January. 


See month. 


There is an ajar, q.v., that means on 
the turn ; another that means at odds with 
the world. The latter is from earlier at 
jar; jar, discord, being an imitative word 
(earlier charr, chirr) for harsh sound. 
The jar for holding things is via Sp. 
jarro from .Arab, jarrah, earthen jar. 

See slang. 


See carnelian. 


.See pylorus. 


Some students of the modern dance 
declare that this is an African word 
meaning hurry, brought into Eng. 
through the Creole. The more likely 
origin is in the name of the man that, 
down in Vicksburg around 1910, became 
world-famous through the song asking 
everyone to "come on an' hear, Alex- 
ander's Ragtime Band." Alexander's 
first name was Charles, always abbre- 
viated Chas. and pronounced Chazz; at 
the "hot" moments they called "Come 
on, Jazz!" whence, jazz music. Other 
sources have also been suggested: .'\rab 
jazib, one that allures; Hind, jazba, ar- 
dent desire (Eng. jazzbo) : and an Af- 
rican jaiza, rumble of distant drums. 


The name of this car is as American 
as its manufacture. The government, 
early in World War 11, ordered a Gen- 
eral Purpose car. The initials sound 
like a childish diminutive, G. P., jeepie; 



but jeep seems to fit the machine. The 
word swept into the language as swiftly 
as the car into use. 


The implication of childishness some 
feel in this word is an echo of Fr. jeune 
(from L. juvenis), young. The word is 
really from L. jejunus, fasting (Fr. jeune, 
fast). It came to be applied to food that 
lacked nourishing qualities ; hence to 
things unsatisfactory (to the mind or 
spirit). The jejunum is the second part 
of the small intestine, which (as was 
noted in the year 1398) "is alwaye voyde 
of mete and drynlce", seems always 

To break the night's fast is Eng. 
breakfast; but it is dinner too. This was 
the meal at which the lord broke his fast, 
probably about noon, the biggest meal of 
the day ; now often at eventide. For 
dinner is by way of Fr. diner (whence 
also Eng. dine) from LL. form disjunare 
from disjejunare, from dis-, away + 
jejunum, fast. Dijeuner is still break- 
fast in French. Meals at all hours serve 
the one end ! 


See aspic. 


When there was a drawn game, the 
Romans called it (lyL.) jocus partitus, 
divided game, as they divided the wager. 
The term came into French as jeu parti. 
Then it was applied also to evenly match- 
ed opponents, so that the result was im- 
certain and the stakes (or the lives) were 
in danger; hence, Eng. jeopardy. For 
jeopardise cp. homo — . 

See muscle. 


See Appendix II. 

jerk, jerked (beef). 
See barley. 

See cloth. 

Jerusalem artichoke. 
See artichoke. 


This is a church word, used of a large 
branched candlestick ; or of a genealogical 
tree on a church window, showing the 
family (symbolized by the flourishing 


tree) from Jesse through his son David 
to Jesus. Thus in the Bible, Isaiah 11, 
i — X, we are told "And in that day there 
shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand 
for an ensign of the people." (Incident- 
ally, this illustrates the earlier use of 
ensign, q.v.). 

See joke. 

jet, jetsam, jettison. 

See subject. 


See carnelian. 


This daughter of the King of Tyre, 
and wife of a wicked king of Israel 
(Ahab), has given her name for all 
time to a fierce old woman. The Bible 
(II Kings) tells how, as Elijah proph- 
esied, she was devoured by dogs. 

jingo, jingoism. 
See chauvinism. 


The double meaning of bug (see in- 
sect) has led to its being used for the 
fixed idea of a fanatic or a maniac 
("He has bees in his bonnet;" "He has 
a bug ill his cap;" "He's bugs!") : hence 
the end of this word. As for the first 
part, rhyming slang and Spoonerisms, 
q.v., were very popular sources of words 
in the last century; thus the victim of 
gin and bitters had the first letters 
transposed; he's been and got the jit- 
ters. From the similar spasmodic jerk- 
ing of tiie devotees of the new dancing, 
the term was applied to them, the jit- 


See Appendix II. 


See barnard. 

See carnelian. 

John Bull. 
See Yankee. 

Johnny cake. 

See jury. 

join, joint, jointure. 
See subjugate. 




Probably via It. gioco this is from 
L. joctis, game, from jovius, whence 
Eng. jovial, from Jove, the great 
player of practical jokes among the 
gods. His L. name is akin to Gr. Zeus; 
Jupiter, from Zeus -^ pater, father; dios 
(Heb. Jehovah?) ; related to Sansk div, 
to shine, to play ; whence ultimately also 
L. divus, god, whence Eng. divine. From 
L. joculator, jester, came OFr. jogleur, 
whence jongleur, minstrel, who was also 
a juggler. Cp. camelian; witch-hazel. 

Jest was originally any deed, from L. 
gerere, gest — , to do, whence gesture; 
digest, from L. digerere, to put apart, 
to arrange {digerere cibutn, to digest 
food). Used in such titles as "The 
Merrie Gestes of . . . ", the word came 
to be limited to the humorous meaning. 


See Yule. 


This term for bringer of bad luck 
has even become a verb : "Don't you 
Jonah me!" In the Bible (Jonah), we 
are told that Jonah fled when the Lord 
bade him protest the evils of Nineveh ; 
he took ship for Tarshish. A storm 
overtook the ship ; the frightened sailors, 
leaning of Jonah's flight, cast him over- 
board — whereupon all was calm. Jonah, 
as you know, spent the next three days 
in the belly of a whale; then went upon 
the Lord's errand. 

See joke. 

See junket. 

Jordan almond. 

See almond. 

This is a variant and contraction of 
iota (jota), the smallest letter in the 
Gr. alphabet. Hence, to jot down is to 
make a very brief note of. Iota is 
sometimes called the Lacedemonian let- 
ter, because the inhabitants of this sec- 
tion of Greece (Laconia) were frugal 
of words; see laconic. 

journal, journey, ioumeyman. 

See jury, 

See joke, saturnine (from Jupiter). 



This exuberance is associated with the 
young, q.v. And joy itself is via Fr. joie. 
It. gioia, from L. gaudia, rejoicing. To 
rejoice came on the same path, via OFr. 
rejoir, rcjoiss—, from LL. re', again, -f 
gaudire, to be glad. To enjoy something 
is to take joy in it. Jewel may be via 
OFr. joel from gaudiellum, gaudia; but 
see camelian. 

See jubilee. 


L. jubilare, jubilat—, whence Eng. 
jubilation, is found in the imperative in 
the first word of the 100th Psalm : 
Jubilate Deo, Shout unto the Lord. The 
influence of this changed the first vowel 
in jubilee, from LL. jubilaeus annus, 
year of rejoicing, from Gr. iobelos, 
from Heb. jobel, ram; then, ram's horn 
used as trumpet. The year after seven 
periods of seven years each was set as 
a time of rejoicing, a sabbatical (Heb. 
shabbath, from shabath, to rest) year. 
This is the fiftieth year; hence jubilee 
and golden anniversary coincide. Since 
fields should lie fallow and slaves be 
set free, the jubilee became a term of 
great rejoicing among the Negroes. 

See verdict. 

judicial, judicious. 

See just. 


See joke. 


See pylorus. 

juke (box). 

In the mountains of southern United 
States, many Elizabethan words, that 
have died out in England, are preserved. 
Thus jouk, to dodge, to move quickly, 
was applied to the places where liquor 
was sold, in prohibition times ; hence, 
any cheap drinking place. When the 
automatic phonograph swept to popu- 
larity in such shops, it came to be called 
a juke box. 

Julian (calendar). 
See Appendix II. 


See month. 





See plunge; also gyp. (The sound of 
feet landing). 

See gyp. 


See yokel. 


See month. 


Sec pigeon. 


See yeoman. 


See yeoman. 


The dessert is named from its having 
l>een first prepared in little reed baskets 
L. juncus, rush — the diminutive of 
which, Fr. jonquille, gives us the flower 
jonquil, from its leaves. The picnic, 
junket, is named from the practice of 
spreading rushes to sit upon ; they are 
woven into little pillows, at outdoor 
stone- seated stadia, today. 

See joke. 


See jury. 

See improvised. 


This body of sworn men gets its 
name, from OFr. juree, sworn, from L. 
jurare, jurat — , to swear, from jus, 
jur — , law. Jurisdiction is from L. 
juris + dictio, diction — , declaration. But 
the word jury, in such combinations as 

jury-tnast and jury-leg, temporary (a 
wooden leg), is for the day?, from 
OFr. jornal, jurnal, journal, daily, from 
LL. diurnal — from L. diurnus, from 
dies, day. Thus a journey was originally 
a day's march ; a journeyman, a worker 
by the day ; a journal, a daily record. 
Journal was first an adjective; ca. 1500 
the noun (account, record, register, etc.) 
was dropped; by the end of the 16th c. 
its doublet diurnal (coming into use ca. 
1550, meaning the list of religious serv- 
ices for the day) had replaced journal 
as the more formal adjective for daily. 
Johnny cake is a folk change from 
journey cake. 

A ledger is (first) a book fastened 
in one place in the church, for records 
of births, marriages, etc., from ME. 
liggen, to lie; leggen, to lay; hence 
also MHG. legge, layer, whence Eng. 
ledge. Cp. just. 


Here again two older words have 
merged. Just, fair-dealing, is from L. 
Justus, from jus, law, right, whence 
Eng. justice. But when we say that it 
is just ten o'clock, this is via Fr. jouste, 
hard by, next to, from OFr. jouxte, 
from L. juxta, near, whence Eng. juxta- 
position, from juxta -f- ponere, posit — , 
to place. The L. form jus, law, had 
two stems, jur — , as in Eng. jurispru- 
dence, jury; and jud — , whence judicare, 
judical, to judge, as in Eng. adjudicate, 
judicial, pertaining to judgment, and /«- 
dicious (L. — osus, whence Eng. — ous, 
full of), full of judgment. 


See just; emblem. 


See youth. 


See just. 



See alcohol 

See shed. 


A trapezoid (as also the flying trapeze) 
is named from its shape : Gr. oidos, eidos, 
form + trapezion, diminutive of trapeza, 
table, from tetra, four -f Peza, foot. A 
frequent suffix meaning shaped like is 
— Old, as in spheroid; anthropoid (Gr. 
anthropos, man). 

Gr. skopos, watcher, then his target, 
then aim, range, gives us Eng. scope; 
cp. dismal. 

Gr. kalos, beauty, kallos, beautiful, are 
pleasant thoughts ; cp. calibre. 

Put these all together, and you have a 
range of beautiful form, Eng. kaleido- 

See camp. 


When Captain Cook came to Queens- 
land, Australia, in 1770, he naturally 
asked about the strange leaping animal. 
He then called it the kangaroo. There is 
no such native name; the native words, 
also used in Eng., are wallaby for the 
small species and wallaroo for the large 
— perhaps, originally, expressions of sur- 
prise. It is suggested that the Captain's 
word, kangaroo, is a misunderstanding 
and corruption of the native words for 
"I don't understand you." 


See States. 

See ceremony. 


This apparently was first a tree-stump, 
AS. kaak. From the shape, it was applied 
to a barrel (Du. kaak, barrel) or basket; 

then esp. the stool on which offenders 
were exposed to public view, whence 
(esp. in Scandinavia) the sense of pil- 
lory ; cp. ducking-stool. It kept the other 
meaning in 0£. cag, whence Eng. keg. 


See king. 

See canon. 


See States. 

See handkerchief. 

See com. 

See plunge. 


Sometimes spelled catsup, this word 
has no relation to milk : it is an orien- 
tal word: Malay kechap; Chin, ketsiap; 
Jap. kit jap; meaning a sauce, as the 
brine of pickled fish. Our most famil- 
iar form is tomato ketchup. 


This is common Teut. but from a LL. 
source : catillus, a diminutive of catinus, 
a food vessel. "A pretty kettle of fish," 
the ironic expression, is corrupted from a 
pretty kittle, "kiddle, a dam with fish nets, 
OFr. qutdel, Fr. guideau, related to 
guide, as the fish are led in. 

kewpie (doll). 
See pupil. 

See cloth. 


Possibly influenced by Pshaw! in the 
sense of nonsense (as the G. form be- 




came Geckchoserie, from Geek, a sim- 
pleton), this word is from Fr. quelques 
chases, some things. Dryden, in The 
Kind Keeper, gives us two stages of 
the shift: 
Limberham : Some foolish French 

quelquechose, I warrant you. 
Brainsick: Quelquechose I O ignorance 
in supreme perfection! He means 
a keckshose! 
The ending was thought to be plural, 
thence changed to kickshaw, a trifle. 


Originally the yoting of a goat, then 
the skin of that animal (kid gloves) 
this word is from ON. kith, being kid 
in the Scandinavian tongues. Kith and 
kin are from AS. cyththu, related to 
cuth, past participle of cuttnan, to know ; 
cp. uncouth; and from AS. cynn, (one's 
own) kind, common Teut., relateid to'G. 
Kind, child and L. genus. The G. Kind 
has helped produce the slang sense of 
kid, child — whence the verb to kid, to 
treat as a child. (For kin and kind, 
cp. racy.) 

See knick-knack; kid. 


From the shape and position of this 
gland, it derives its name: belly-egg. 
In ME. it is sometimes spelled ktdneer, 
kidnere; and neer and nere are used 
alone to mean the kidney; but it is also 
spelled kidenei, from ME. ey, egg. The 
first syllable, kid, is a corruption of 
quid, from AS. cwid, belly, womb. Thus 
wlien Falstaff says {Merry Wives of 
Windsor, III,v,116) "Think of that, a 
man of my kidney, that am as subject 
to heat as butter; a man of continual 
dissolution and thaw" (which today's 
weather makes one realize!), he was 
referring to his fatness; but by exten- 
sion from Shakespeare, the phrase "of 
his kidney" has come to mean "of his 

kin, kind. 
See racy. 

See cow. 


The divine right of kings was worked 
into the etjmiology of this word. It is 
AS. cyning, head (son) of the cyn, or 
tribe. But from early times we find 

loiTns like AS. kuning, as though from 
Goth, kunnan, from AS. curnan, whence 
Eng. cunning and ken: king because he 
has wisdom. C^rlyle several times em- 
pliasizes this origin. (On Heroes and 
Hero-Worship, VI; Sartor Resartus, 
III. 7). 


See church. (There is an old German 
saying that Kindt, Kiiche, Kirche, chil- 
dren, kitchen, church, are the woman's 

See mania. 

See knick-knack. 


The most important item in a sol- 
dier's kit is the food — which too often 
during war he must snap down quickly. 
Hence the pack he carries, the sack, to 
hold his victuals, is no more than a 
knapsack (LG. knappen, whence Eng. 
knap, to bite, to snap). Though some- 
times used as a pillow, it has no other 
connection with nap (AS. hnappian, to 
take a short sleep. . . . Some suggest 
that these AS. and LG. words are re- 
lated, both meaning basically to snap, as 
to snap the eyes closed, when there's 
chance for a minute's rest.) Cp. knick- 

See lady; knick-knack. 

knee, kneel. 
See gastronomy. 


This reduplicated word (cp. scurry) 
is from knack. The word imitates its 
meaning, the sound of a sharp short 
blow, a snap. Then it meant a trick, a 
device, a toy; then, the adroitness in 
performing the trick. (Thus we say 
"That's a snap!") Knack is a member 
of a fertile family. Many of the words 
in it are now obsolete; but the kn—, 
gn — , n — , initial sounds are found in 
words common in the Teuton tongues, 
and linked with Latin and Greek, back 
to far-off Aryan sources, meaning bit- 
ing, breaking, or swelling (a protuber- 
ance, a knuckle to knock with, a head). 
Interlocked are the ideas of to eat and 
to know: ME. gnawen, to gnaw; AS. 
cnawan, to know; L. gnoscere, to know, 




whence Eng. cognition; ignorant; Gr. 
gignoskein, to know; Sansk. jna, to 
know. The idea of absorbing is com- 
mon to both food and knowledge. Thus 
L. rumen, the first stomach of a cud- 
chewing animal, gives us both ruminant, 
chewing cud, and ruminate, to think 
over ; Shakespeare says "Chew upon 
this" (Julius Caesar, I,ii,171) meaning 
ponder. To digest, q.v., has the same 
double use ; and since digestion absorbs 
only the good, a digest gives us (to 
continue the food figure) the meat of 
an item, leaving the shell. Cp. strike. 

Some idea of this complex family of 
words may be gatliered from the listing 
that follows. Knah is an old spelling of 
nab; knabble, an early form of nibble. 
Knag is a protuberant knot in wood. 
Knap (AS. cnaep), a mound; also, (Du. 
knap pen), to break short; to bite off; 
whence knapsack, q.v. Knar is a knot 
(of wood) ; whence knar led, now more 
commonly gnarled — though gnarl is a 
diminutive of gnar, earlier knarre, knar. 
The gn — and the sn — words are akin : 
early know became gnaw (Gr. gnathos, 
jaw) : gnash; Dan. knaske, to grind 
the teeth ; snap, snip, snarl, snatch, snob, 
<jnih. Perhaps it is the influence of the 
kn — sound that changed knave, which 
first meant just boy, to the sense of 
rascal, as in knavery. Knight was 
spared the same fate by becoming a 
term in history; the G. form, Knecht, 
has come to mean menial. Knicker, a 
boy's marble, is from D. knikken, to 
knock — which itself (AS. cnucian) is an 
imitative word, like most of these. See 
knickers. For knit, knot, and knout, see 
knot. Knob is a later form of knop, 
still earlier knoppe, a bud; its form 
knosp (Gr. knospe, bud) is used as a 
term in architecture. Knoll (AS. cnoll) 
via Welsh cnol is a diminutive of Gael. 
cnoc, mound. Knub is a variant of 
knob, a bump ; as a verb this meant to 
strike with the knuckles; and knuckle 
is a later form of knockel, with which 
vve knock. Knur, also nur, is a knot or 
l.<mp in wood; and knurl is wood 
knotted in the grain ; to nurl is to give 
a fluted edge, as to a coin. Knick- 
knack itself is also spelled nick-nack. 

The forms without the initial k are 
as common. Nab is of two sources : Ice. 
nabbi, a knob; and Dan. nappe, to 
catch. The second of these gives us 
kidnap; cp.. kid. From ME. nap, a pro- 
tuberance, comes the nape of the neck. 
(There are also nap, from AS. hnap- 
pian, to slumber; nap, from AS. hnoppa. 

the. nap of cloth ; and nap, a card game, 
short for Napoleon.) AS. neb, beak, 
cognate with snap, gives us the mh of 
a pen. Nib also meant to take a small 
bite ; its frequentative is nibble. ' (Snap, 
and snip, as related to nip, earlier knip, 
to pinch, to bite, remind us that s — is 
often prefixed as an intensive: splash 
from plash; smash from mash; squash 
from quash; scruncn from crunch; 
scratch is paralleled by G. kratzen and 
Fr. gratter; whence Eng. grate. Mrs. 
Gamp, in Dickens' Martin Chuzdewit, 
says scroud for crowd.) Knip, later nip, 
pinch, has the frequentative nipple. Also 
nob, to strike and nob, the head; nobble, 
to stun — though slang nob, whence nob- 
by, is short for nobleman; and nod 
(OHG. hnoton, to shake) ; also slang 
noddle, the head, corrupted to noodle. 

Nick (Du. knik, a nod) as in the 
nick of time; also (G. knicken; ODu. 
nocke) a slight cut, a notch; also a 
nock. Nock was first the horn end of 
a long bow ; then the notch for the ar- 
row (L. nux, nuc — , nut, was used with 
the same meaning). Nick is also an ab- 
breviation of the devil, the Old Nick; 
contrariwise 5"/. Nick (Nikolaus) is 
Santa Claus, patron of travelers. See 
nickel. Niche, the (originally shell- 
shaped) recess in a wall, is from It. 
nicchia, perhaps from LL. nidiculare, 
to nestle, from nidicare, to nest, from 
nidus, nest — but most probably from It 
nicchio, shell, shellfish, from L. mytilus, 
mussel. Notch was earlier otch, perhaps 
by joining of the article, an -\- otch, 
whence a notch. Cp. auction. It is prob- 
ably softened from nock; but also sug- 
gested is Fr. osche, from oschier, to 
cut, from L. absecare, to cut away, 
from L. ab, away, -j- secare, the present 
participle of which gives us secant. What 
we gnaw, we cannot ignore; we are 
what we eat. Which indeed is food 
for thought. 


A knicker or nicker is a marble of 
baked clay. In old New York, the 
man that made them was called a (Du.) 
knickerbacker, knicker baker. Like 
Smith, Baker, and many more, this be- 
came a proper name — chosen by Wash- 
ington Irving as that of the supposed 
ruthor of Diedrich Knickerbocker's His- 
tory of New York. In Cruikshank's il- 
lustrations to this, the old citizens wore 
short wide pants caught in at the knees ; 
these have since been called knicker- 
bockers, or knickers. See knick-knack. 



See lady, errand, knick-knack. 

See knot. 

knob, knock, knoll. 
See knick-knack. 


This is a common Teut. word, AS. 
cnotta; ON. knuir, knot, knottr, ball. 
The cognate AS. cnyttan gives us knit. 
The knots a ship travels in an hour are 
measured by a log-line divided by knots 
into 120 parts, each the same part of a 
nautical mile as a half-minute is of an 
hour ; hence the speed may be timed by 
the knots. A Gordian knot is like the 
one tied by Gordius (a peasant made 
king of Phrygia, who dedicated his 
wagon to Jupiter and tied it to the 
temple. It was tied so ingeniously as 
to defy all efforts to open it; but it 
was prophesied that whoever untied the 
knot would reign over the whole East. 
Alexander opened it), cut in twain by 
the sword. A knout (Sw. knut ? or 
Tartar knout, knot) is a lash of knot- 
ted thongs. Cp. knick-knack. 


See knot. 

5"^^ quaint ; knick-knack. 


See knick-knack. 

See incinerator. 


The diamond has drawn its name* well, 
from Pers. kuh-i-nur, mountain of light. 

See alcohol. 


See alcohol. 

See sterling. 


See element. 

Ku Klux Klan. 

See circus. 


When I wa? a boy, scary tales of 
long warfare in Chinatown used to sup- 
ply some of the senseless thrill now 
provided by what are called the comics. 
But Chin, tang merely means society, or 
party. Kuo, nationalist ; min, people : 
The nationalist people's party, the Kuo- 


labor, laboratory. 
See lotion. 

See Europe. 


See delight. 


See alas. 


The Spartans were parsimonious of 
patter. When they refused Athenian 
terms, on one occasion, the herald de- 
clared : "If we come to your city, we 
will raze it to the ground." The Spar- 
tan answer was the one word "If." 
From the name of the land of which 
Sparta was capital, Laconia, comes 

See litmus. 

la crosse. 

The Indians used to play this game, 
with sometimes hundreds on a side. The 
French reduced the number, organized 
rules, and gave it the name — from the 
stick used, which they thought resembles 
a crozier's staff (OFr. crossier, bearer 
of the crosse, bishop's crook) ; hence 
the jeu de la crosse, game with the 
crook. The Indians did not care; for 
instance, on June 4, 1763, Pontiac ar- 
ranged a game outside the fort at 
Michillimackinac ; the whites watched ; 
the ball went over the palisade ; the In- 
dians rushed in after it, took out their 
tomahawks, and massacred the whites. It 
has always been a rough game. 

lacteal, lacteous, lactic. 
See delight. 

See board. 


A lady may seem removed from 
kitchen tasks, but in the days when she 
was just the head farmer's wife (as 
any farmer's wife today will tell) she 
had quite a job baking bread for all 
the helpers. In truth, that occupation 
gave her her name (OE. hlaefdige, from 
hlaf,' \odii -\- dig, to knead). Dough is 
from the same source (AS. dag; ON. 
deig) , which also givfes us dairy (ME. 
deyerie, from ME. dey, woman, from 
AS. daege, from dig, to knead). By 
equal right, the lord is the loaf -ward 
(OE. hlaford, from hlafweard; OE. 
weard, whence End. ward, warden. Re- 
i^ard, however, is from OFr. reguarder, 
to regard, heed, hence repay). And the 
servant was the loaf -eater (OE. hlaf- 
aeta, servant) ! A steward was original- 
ly a keeper of the pigs (AS. stigu, sty 
-\- weard). A knight was originally a 
youth (AS. cjiiht), then a servant, then 
a servant of a noble. A knave (AS. 
oiafa: Citr. Kiiabc) was at first a boy, 
then it became a term of scorn. 

In Lady-bug, Lady-Day, and other 
combinations, there lingers the AS. use 
of Lady to mean the Virgin Mary. 

5^^^ coward. 

See litter. 


Sec mutton. 


Sec Appendix H. 


Sec alas. 


See Iiiinher ; cp. bazooka. 




Eng. lamp and lantern were once the 
same word, Gr. lampas. from lampein, to 
shine. The early lamp was a basin with 
a wick floating in oil ; the Romans devel- 
oped the type where the wick comes up 
within a horn (now glass) case for 
protection. But the Romans used the 
word lux, luc — , light. From this came 
the verb lucere, to shine, the present 
participle of which, lucens, lucent — , gives 
us Eng. lucent; came also the adjective 
lucidus, whence Eng. lucid; and the noun 
lucerna, lamp, whence Eng. lucernal, as 
the lucernal microscope ; cp. atlas. And 
the influence of L. lucerna gave us, as a 
doublet to lamp, the Eng. lantern. Folk- 
etymology (as in Shakespeare's A Mid- 
summer Night's Dream, V,i, 233, 237) 
from the horn case derived the spelling: 
"This lanthdm does the homed moon 


OFr. tamper, to guzzle, is a nasal 
formation from taper, to tap, from AS. 
lapian; L. lambere, to lick. The imper- 
ative of the OFr. tamper, tampons, let's 
drink, was the refrain of an old drink- 
ing song. From the usual nature of the 
stanzas of such songs came the word 

Lap, a fold of a garment (hence, of 
the body when you sit) is a common 
Teut. word (AS. lappa; ON. leppr. 
clout), with diminutive lappet and lapel. 
From it comes the verb tap, to surround 
with cloth, (whence overlap) ; hence, 
more generally, to surround or encircle, 
as a lap of" a race-course. A lapidary 
is from L. tapidarius, from tapis, 
lapid — , stone, wbence tapis lazuli, azure 
stone; dilapidated means with the stones 
thrown apart, from di, dis, apart -\- 
lapidare, taPidat — . Lapse is L. lapsus, 
from tabi, laps — , to slip, whence lapsus 
linguae, slip of the tongue. Cp. luncheon. 


See launch. 

See lawn. 

See Appendix II. 

See grave. 

See luncheon. 


See lamp. 

See element. 

See lampoon, luncheon. 

lapel, lapidary. 
See lampoon. 

lapis lazuli. 

See lampoon. Ultramarine, the color, 
was named not from the sea (L. ultra, 
beyond -f- marin — , of the sea) but be- 
cause the lapis lazuli came from be- 
yond the sea, from Persia. 

Ultra gives us ultraism, beyond the 
surface of things, beyond comprehen- 
sion. L. mare, sea, whence marinus, of 
the sea, gives us marine; whence mari- 
timus, near the sea, whence maritime; 
whence marinare, marinat — , whence 
viariv'i'c'.l !iei'-ing: pickicd in brine. 
Tell that to the Marines! Marital is 
not from this source ; but from mas, 
mar — , male (the diminutive masculus, 
whence masculine) whence .maritatis, of 
the male ; whence L. maritare, whence 
Fr. marier, whence Eng. marry. This 
has no connection with the common 
Teut. word, merry (OE. vtyrige, from 
Teut. murjo, whence mirth.) 

lapse, lapsus linguae. 
See lampoon. 


See Appendix II. 


See board. Two other suggestions are 
advanced. The helmsman always stood 
on the steer-side, starboard; hence, this 
side was empty, ME. lere, empty. The 
early form teereboard exists — but no- 
body then knew how to spell. Also, Du. 
laager, lower, is used to mean left; 
lar may be short for laager. Etymol- 
ogists often ga completely overboard. 

See lasso. 

See rote, sky lark. 


This word is directly from the L. 

larva, ghost. But as folks learned that 

ghosties were usually hidden humans, the 




word came to mean mask. It was applied 
in natural history to the grub state of an 
insect, which masks its true, final, appear- 
ance. Linnaeus (Carl von Linne, Swedish 
naturalist, 1707 — 78) gave currency to 
the technical sense. 

lass, lassitude. 

See alas, let, last. 


See delight. Lariat is a doublet of 
reata or riata, from Sp. reata, from 
reatar, to tie, from L. re, back -f- aptars, 
to fasten, intensive of apere, apt — , to 
fit ; whence Eng. apt, aptitude, inept. 
Our more familiar form combines the 
article and the noun ; la reata, whence 
Eng. lariat. Cowboys are seldom inept 
with the lasso. Cp. copulate. 


The last that the cobbler should stick 
to is from OE. laeste. shoemaker's last, 
from OE. laest, boot ; OE. last, footstep ; 
from an earlier root lais—, to follow a 
track, cognate with L. lira, furrow ; cp. 

The last that's best of all the game is 
from OE. latest, superlative of OE. lat, 
tired, whence Eng. late : latost became 
latst, thence last. The -Aryan root was 
lad — , seen also (ladtus) in L. lassus, 
weary, whence lassitude; cp. let. To let 
seems first to have meant to abandon 
through weariness ; in the same family is 
L. laxus, loose, relaxed; cp. talc . . . 
Somewhat later, the doublet latest was 

The verb last first meant to follow ; 
hence, "to continue, then to hold out, to 


See delight. 

late, later, latest. 

See last. 


5"^^ collar. 


Perhaps akin to L. liquere, Eng. liquid 
{cp. world) and to L. lac, an oozing gum 
{cp. litmus) was L. latex, fluid. This 
was applied in Renaissance medicine to 
the fluids of the body, esp. to the watery 
part of the blood ; then, to an ooze from 
the cut stems of plants. Since 1909 it 
has been used of this fluid from the 
siphonia elastica, or Brazilian rubber tree ; 
the native name for latex, cahuchu, via 
Fr. gives us Eng. caoutchouc. 


See absolute. 

See collar. 

See lotion. 


See laudanum. 


This is a folk-formation from L. lab- 
danum, ladanum, from Or. ladanon, from 
ledon, resin. The change came from as- 
sociation with L. laus, laud — , praise, be- 
cause its effects were laudable. 

See bull. 


Laughter, seen by some as the dis- 
tinguishing sign of man, was widespread, 
OE. hlaehhan. The root hlah, hlag, klak, 
hlok, is probably echoic, as are cluck 
(earlier clock, kS. cloccian) ; chuckle; 
cackle; cp. cliche. The same root ap- 
pears in Gr. klossein, to cluck; this is 
akin to Gr. glotta, a variant of glossa; 
Eng. glottis; epiglottis; prefix glosso — 
for things pertaining to the tongue ; but 
see glossary. This too is basically echoic ; 
as also Eng. glut and gulp; originally 
glut was a swallow ; then, all that could 
be eaten in a swallow (L. has the same 
root, glutirc, to swallow ; the noun form 
gives us Eng. glutton). Gluten is directly 
from L. gluten, glue {glue is from a 
variant, LL. glus, glut — ; see clam). 


There was a L. lancca, perhaps itself 
of Celtic origin, which as the name for 
the hurled spear passed into all the Teut. 
tongues, Eng. lance; also used as a verb, 
as to lance a wound. From the OFr. 
lance was also formed a verb, OFr. 
lander, ONFr. lanchicr, whence Eng. 
launch; this first meant to thrust, then 
to drive forth, to leap forward. The 
swift little boat, however, is from Malay 
lancharan, from lanchar, quick ; via Port. 
tanchara, Sp. lancha, this gives us Eng. 
launch. The launch that is launched is a 
different word from its launching. 

laundress, lava. 

See lotion. 


See Appendix IL 



lavatory, lavender, lavish. 
5"^^ lotion. 

-law (mother-in-law, etc.). 

This is not at all a legal relationship, 
as the name might imply. It is not 
from Fr. loi, from L. lex, leg — , which 
gives us all our legal entanglements, 
cp. legible ; but good old Saxon, from 
AS. lage, Goth, liuga, marriage ; re- 
lated to AS. lie g an, to lie down ; leger, 
a bed, Iciicrlcnm, matrimony. In Gr. 
Icklroii means both bed and marriage. 


See cloth. The lawn on which you 
lounge or play latim tennis is earlier 
Eng. laund, from Fr. lande, moor, and 
is a doublet of land, a common Teut. 
word. (The soldier that pierced Christ's 
side with a spear fell into a "dreaming 
luske, a drowsie gangrill" ; his name is 
passed down as Longinus or Longius, 
from which the early Eng. lungis, 
whence lounge.) 


Sec talc. 


Sec luscious. 


.S>^ fell. 

lay (song). 
See rote. 


This word has no (etymological) rela- 
tion to lying in; but is from OFr. late, 
box ; the diminutive is layette, even though 
nowadays sonic arc big. 


Sec Appendix 




— le. 





element, 1 








See lobster. 


Sec little. 


See Appendix II. 


See furlough. 


Sec yeast. 

See rummage. 


See licorice. 

ledge, ledger. 
See jury. 

See onion. 


Those of leftist ideas — along with 
their rightist opponents, who expect vio- 
lence from the left — will probably be 
surprised to learn that the word Jeft 
is originally from AS. lyft, weak, 
worthless. It was applied to the hand 
that was usually the weaker, as opposed 
to the right : from AS. riht, reht, 
straight, just; cognate with L. rectus; 
cp. royal. See also dexterity. 

The place of honor, in any formal 
meeting, is at the host's right. Hence, 
at the French National Assembly of 
1789, the nobles took their seats at the 
right of the President, leaving the seats 
on the left for the "third estate" {see 
estate). From a position of ceremony, 
,i;is ;ool< on a political significance: the 
nobles were naturally conservative; the 
moderates were in the center (the 
assembly-room was shaped like an 
amphitheatre), and the radicals were 
on the left. Carlyle, in The French 
Revolution, 1847, speaks of "the ex- 
treme Left". The warning "Don't get 
left" has of course no reference to 
radical ideas: left is here the past 
participle of leave : Don't let them 
leave vou behind; cp. furlough. 

The terms leftism, leftist, and left- 
iving all came into use ca. 1920, after 
the Russian Revolution. The "wing" is 
borrowed from military use, the wing 



of an army. For the word wing, see 

legal," legate, legation, legato, legend. 
See legible. 


Sec yeast. 


Teachers that warn of spelling con- 
fusion between legible and eligible may 
not tell 30U (or know) that the two 
words are from the same source : L. 
Ic'icic, U'cliiiii, lo clioo^c, ;u iiick. From 
the ability to choose the proper letters 
came the derived meaning of legere, to 
read : what is legible is what can be 
picked out. Eligible and elected (L. e, 
out oi -\- legere) are what can be, and 
what have been, cliosen. What ought 
to be read is a legend (L. gerundive, 
legenda) : until the 16th c. this meant a 
saint's life, but with the Reformation 
and the hostility to the Catholic Church 
the meaning changed to "something told 
as history that is really made up." 

Few words have more ramifications 
in Eng, that this L. one. A group of 
men picked out for military service is 
a legion; then, any large number; men 
chosen may be a legation, or legates. 
That which is chosen tends to become 
imposed, hence, legal, lawful : and 
through OFr. leiel, from L. legalis 
comes its doublet, Eng. loyal. (Similar- 
ly fashioned were royal, q. v. and 
regal.) To choose together is to make 
a collection (L. col, from com, to- 
gether). To choose among, to dis- 
criminate, is to show intelligence (L. 
intelligere, intellectunt, from intellegere, 
from inter, hetv^een-^ legere), or to be 
intellrctual. Intelligentsia is from Russ., 
indicating first those that opposed the 
Tsar's regime. Such persons would prob- 
ably have joined the early Romans in 
using L. clegans, elegant — , (present 
participle of elegare, a variant of eligere, 
to pick out) to mean choosy, finical; but 
with the decline of the Romans such 
choi':e came to be approved, as tastefully 
refined ; hence, Eng. elegance and the 
elegant. Also see college. 

Diligent came to its meaning by a 
series of shifts. If you choose one 
from a group, it is probably because 
you delight in it (thus L. diligere, 
dilectum, to delight in, from dis, among 
-\- legere). But if you enjoy something 
you will be active at it ; therefore the 
present participle diligens, diligent — , en- 


joying, came to mean "constant in 
application". {Delectable comes by an- 
other patli; see delight.) 

Closely bound with this verb— for 
what you choose, you seek to hold, to 
1)111(1 — i^ L. Iifjarc, wlience It. legare, 
to bind, which gives us the League of 
Nations. Direct from L. come ligament, 
ligature, ligation (cp. legation) ; tlirough 
It., tlie musical term legato. Another 
pair of doublets arises : L. alligare, 
from ad, to-\- ligare, whence Fr. aloyer 
(cp. loyal), whence Eng. alloy, a bind- 
ing of two metals ; but alligare also, 
whence Fr. allier, whence Eng. ally, 

The word liege has a twisted story. 
One's liege lord is the lord chosen 
"freely" (Fr. lige, G. ledig, free), as 
on baptism one "freely" chose one's 
faith. However, to all practical pur- 
poses one was "bound" to serve one's 
liege lord ; hence LL. ligius was popu- 
larly connected with ligare, to bind. By' 
this path (OFr. lige, whence ligcance, 
whence ME. legaunce) comes allegiance, 
The confusion becomes worse with 
allcfic (Fr. alleguer, from L. allegare, 
from ad, to -\- legare, to read, to name), 
but entangled with OFr. eslegier, from 
LL. ? cxledigare, from G. ledig; also 
tangled with OFr. alegier, to lighten, 
from LL. alleinare, from ad, to + levis, 
light. In turn, this word, mixed with 
AS. alecgan, to put down, from lecgan, 
to lay (a common Teut. word) pro- 
duced Eng. allay, to lighten. For a 
penultimate sample of the roundabout 
offspring of this root, a lawgiver is a 
legislator (L. legis, of the law -\- I at or, 
from ferre, tuli, latum, to bring). But 
speaking of roots, note that from legere, 
to select, to pick, come the leguminous 
plants ; legumes are the vegetables most 
easily and most frequently picked, those 
that grow in pods. Soy, by the way 
(Chin, sho-yu, from shi-yu, from shi, 
salted beans + VM, oil) has been used 
since 1696 of the sauce, but only since 
1880 of the most useful bean (soya 
sauce dates from 1679). 

legion, legislator, legume, leguminous. 
See legiole. 

See immunity. 

length, lengthen. 

See lent. 




See lent. 

See Appendix II. 


See lent. 


This is two very different words. 

A loan is OE. laen (OE. laenan, lend, 
lent; the present tense borrowed the d 
from the past tense in Middle English, 
and never gave it back) ; the Aryan root 
is leiq — , whence also Gr. leipein, to leave. 

The other trail starts with the root 
dlongho — , slow, long; its Gr. form is 
dolichos, long, as in Eng. dolichocephalic 
(Gr. kephale. head; whence Eng. cephalic 
and the cephalo — compounds. The ce- 
phalization of man produced his civiliza- 
tion.) ; L. longus, hence Eng. long. But 
note that the verb is lengthen, the noun 
is length; also, via It. we have Eng. 
lentamente, a direction in music. OHG. 
layizig grew OE. lencten; whence 
lentcn — the season when the days grow 
long. Lenten was originally a noun, mean- 
ing spring; and English is the only lang- 
uage in which it has developed a religious 
application. Some suggest that the ten 
(though sufficiently accounted for in the 
other growth) also represents the OTeut. 
root lino — , day ; Sansk. dina, day : the 
season of the longer day. At any rate, 
the word itself was shortened, to Lent; 
when this became the usual word, Lenten 
was looked upon as an adjective formed 
from Lent, instead of the original word. 

Note that L. lens, lent — , a seed, is used 
now in Eng. of the lens of glass (from 
the shape) ; while the seeds are named 
from the diminutive, LL. lenticula, whence 
OFr. lentille, whence Eng. lentil. L. 
lentus meant slow ; whence Eng. lentitude. 
L. lenis meant mild ; whence Eng. lenient, 
lenify, lenitude. Some persons are lenient 
even if it takes long to collect what they 
have lent. 

If it seems long before something comes 
to you, you long for it ; the first form was 
mc longs, it is to slow to me. Also see 
so-long. So-long! 

The root form, dlongho, dlgha, Sansk. 
dirgha, may be related to L. indulgere, to 
be long-suffering toward ; whence Eng. 
indulgent — as one must be to all lexicog- 
raphers ! 


See chameleon. 


See lent. 


This Irish gnome, the shoemaker of 
the fairies, has been said to derive his 
name from his trade, from Erse leith, 
one + brag, shoe (whence Eng. brogan, 
brogue; the brogue in speech is ?, 
from Ir. barrog, cramp, influenced by 
the word above) ; but the little fellow 
in all likelihood gets his name from 
Olr. luchorpan, from lu, little -+- corpin, 
diminutive of corp, body. This is re- 
lated to ME. and OFr. cors, from L. 
corpus, corpor — , body ; whence corporal, 
corporeal, corps, corpse. The L. ad- 
jective corpulentus leads to Eng. cor- 
pulent; the L. diminutive gives us cor- 
puscle ; the Fr. diminutive gives us 
corset; corslet is a double diminutive — 
which the Irish supplies for the 
leprechaun ! 

The O Irish broc, shoe, is akin to 
OTeut. brok, thigh-covering; cp. breech.- 

less, lessen, lesson. 

See little. 


AS. lettan meant to hinder, to make 
late (AS. laet tardy, from G. lass, 
from L. lassus, weary, whence Eng. 
lassitude). But AS. laetan meant to 
allow. The first word survives in 
"without let or hindrance" and in a 
let ball (often erroneously called a net 
ball) in tennis, q.v. The dominant mean- 
ing, to permit, is thus the antonym of 
the other sense. Several Eng. words 
are their own antonyms, e.g., fast, un- 
bending, q.v. 

See lethargy. 


Here is another word that developed 
a story. Gr. lethe, oblivion, is from 
lanthnnein, to be unseen; whence also 
Gr. lethargos, forgetful, whence Eng. 
lethargy. And we learn that one of the 
rivers in the land of the dead is the 
Lethe, in which the spirits bathe to 
win forgetfulness of their days on 
earth. The Styx, from Gr. stygein, to 
loathe, Gr. stygos, hatred {Styx, Siyg—) 
is the river over which Charon must 
ferry them to the Elysian Fields (they 
hoped) or Tartarus; hence the Stygian 
crossing is into the next world. Gr. 
lethe is cognate with L. letum, death, 



whence Eng. lethal; cp. amulet. The three 
other rivers of Hades are : Acheron, 
flowing with grief; Cocytus, weeping; 
and Phlegethon, from phlegein, to burn — 
from heat may come a clammy humor, 
hence Gr. phlegma, whence Eng. phlegm; 
cp. complexion. 

See obliterate. 

levant, leven, lever. 
See yeast. 


This word from Hebrew poetry (e.g^ 
103rf Psalm) is from Heb. livyathan, 
from ? lavah, to twine. Used by 
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, as a 
symbol of the commonwealth, it has 
often (being, in the Bible, a sea 
monster) been used as the name of a 
large ship. Hobbes also wrote Behe- 
moth, 1680, a suppressed study of the 
English Civil War, from Heb. 
b'hemoth, plural of b'hemah, beast, prob- 
ably from Egypt, p-ehe-viau, water-ox 
— used of an animal even greater than 
the leviathan, as Milton calls it {Para- 
dise Lost Vn,471) "biggest bom of 
earth." While in the field, we might 
think of Frankenstein's monster (novel, 
1818, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 
the poet's wife) which slays its creator. 
Note that the term a Frankenstein is 
usually misapplied; that is the man, 
not the monster. For such creatures 
wholesale, cp. robot. 

levigate, levirate, levitation, Levitical, 
See yeast. 


See uncouth. 

libel, liberal, liberate, libertine. 

See liberty. 


The L. word for free is liber; the 
noun, libertas (whence Eng. liberty), 
the adj., liberalis. Thus the liberal arts 
are those befitting a free man. But 
Latin liber, libr — , originally the bark 
of a tree, came to mean book (see 
Bible) ; whence L. librarius, whence Fr. 
libraire, lihrarie, whence Eng. librarian, 
library. The diminutive of L. liber, 
book, is libellus, little book, whence 
Eng. libel; but since pamphlets, from 
Elizabethan England on, were full of 


scurrilous attacks, the name was trans- 
ferred from the booklet to its contents. 
Liberty does not permit /ifee/— though 
from the freed man, L. libertinus, comes 
^ng. libertine. (The 17th and 18th c. 
Fr. libertine was unrestrained in politics 
and religion rather than in morals.) 
But L. libra also means balance, scales; 
whence the sign of the Zodiac, Libra. 
Hence also the use of L. libra as a meas- 
ure, 12 ounces, one pound, and our abbre- 
viation, 1 lb. The term Ubration is used 
in astronomy to mean oscillation, as a 
balance might tremble. Liberate means to 
set free; but deliberate is from L. de, 
down -— liberare, to balance, weigh in 
one's mind. 

See furlough. 

Libra, library. 
See liberty. 

licence, license, licentious. 

See immunity. 

See like. 

See licorice. 

See delight, licorice. 

licorice, liquorice. 

This plant is named from its pleasant 
root: from glykyrrhiza, from glykys, 
sweet, whence glucose, glycerin 4- rhiza, 
root, Eng. rhizome, and dozens of words 
in botany with prefix rhizo — -. 

Lickerish, liquorish, earlier lickerous, 
meaning gluttonous, lustful, is a doublet 
of lecherous, which comes via Fr. 
lecher, to lick. Lick is a common Teut. 
word. AS. liccian, from L. lingere, 
lict — , from Gr. leichein, from Sansk. 
lih, to lick. Cp. delight. The lichen 
plant is so named because it seems to 
lick its way along. A medicine of 
powders made into a paste with honey, 
to be licked up, is an electuary (Gr. 
ek, e, OM\.-\- leichein, to lick). I'd rath- 
er have the licorice. 


See fell. 

See furlough. 



See legible. 


This word is directly from Fr. lieu 
-f tenant, from L, locum ienens, hold- 
ing place, from tenere, to hold, whence 
tenacious. He is thus acting in place 
of his captain, or head; cp. achieve. 
In mathematics we use the word locus 
to mean just what it did in L., place: 
whence location. 

Vice (L. vicem, vice, turn) also 
means in place of, as in viceroy (OFr. 
roy, king) ; vicepresident, etc. Elarlier, 
it changed to vis, or vi, as in viscount 
and vicar (Fr. vicaire, frcwn L. vicarius, 
from vicem, whence vicarious). The 
tool vice, vise, is from Fr. vis, screw, 
from L. vitis, vine, from the spiral 
shape of the tendrils. (The jaws of 
the vice are worked by a screw.) Vice 
the fault is from Fr. vice, from L. 
vitiunt; whence vicious and (L. vitiare, 
vitiat — , to make faulty) vitiate. 


This naturally is very common, Du. 
lijf, G. Leib, body. Thought of as the 
body to which the spirit is attached, it is 
cognate with Sansk. lepam, glue, lip, to 
smear, to stick. But also there is the 
sense renewed in the expression "Stick to 
it!"; Aryan lip, to continue; thus life is 
cognate with Eng. leave, AS. lifan, to re- 
main (be left). The ideas combine when 
you are "stuck on" someone. Then it's 
not a dull life ! 

Sansk lip, to smear, L. liner e {cp. 
clam) are related to Eng. lime (as bird- 
lime) and its emphatic slime (AS. slim, 
L. limus; as mash, smash and the like; 
cp. knick-knack) and to the slimy animal, 
the snail, slug; Fr. limofon (Eng. lima- 
(on is a military manoeuvre and a mathe- 
matical curve, from the shape of the snail 
shell) and Eng. limaceous. The slug's 
path may look like silver, but it's still 
slime. For snail, see thief. 

ligament, ligation, ligature. 
See legible. 

See pylorus. 


This word has a devious story. It was 
originally OE. lie, a noun that came 
down into Eng. as lich, form, body, 
corpse, surviving in architecture in the 
liili-f/ate, an arch-covered gate to a ceme- 


tery where the corpse is set to await the 
clergyman. From its foreboding hoot, the 
owl was often called the lich-otvl. 

But this early lie, body, formed a com- 
pound, AS. gelic, having the form of 
(shaped together: the prefic ga — is cog- 
nate with L. com. together; and L. con- 
formis — whence Eng. conform — had the 
same sense-shifting) ; in time this com- 
pound lost the prefix, and gave us Eng» 
like, similar, suitable. 

The verb like, early it likes me, meant 
to be suitable ; if you like ( if it is suit- 
able to you, if it please you) and such 
uses developed the present sense, as in / 
like you very much. 

The same word was used, AS. — lie, 
— lice, to form adjectives and adverbs, 
meaning in the form or manner of. 
(Sometimes the whole word like was 
used, e.g., childlike.) In both cases, it 
became the suffix Eng. — ly. Since the 
adverb is usually formed by adding — ly 
to the adjective, there developed doubled 
forms: kindly, kindlily ; stateUly; sillily; 
these are now avoided. Sometimes two 
forms have developed, as godly and god- 
like, in which the — like form has more 
of the basic sense, formed like. The 
word likely, from meaning similar, suited 
to, came to mean pleasant or capable in 
appearance, as a likely lass. 


Gulliver made several voyages to 
queer lands (in the book Gulliver's 
Travels, 1726. by Jonathan Swift; really 
a satire on conditions in England in 
his day, but read now as pure adven- 
ture and fantasy). There are four 
journeys: to Lilliput, land of folk not 
more than six inches high; to Brob- 
dingnag, where the dwarfs tower over 
our church steeples; to the floating 
land of Laputa, inhabited by scientists, 
"up in the air" ; and to the home of 
the Houyhnhnms, noble horses served 
by beastly manlike Yahoos. The first 
of these is the best known — so much 
that motion pictures called Gulliver's 
Travels present Lilliput only. And it 
has given our language a word for 
something tiny. 

See clam, life. 


To be in the limelight was to be 
what we now call in the spotlight: the 
earlier theatrical concentrating lights 
were produced by an oxyhydrogen flame 



heating a piece of lime. Today various 
electric devices are used. 


The L. word limen, liminis, thresh- 
old, was used in Herbart's Psy- 
chology, 1824, to mean the limit at 
which a stimulus ceases to be per- 
ceptible. Modem psychology speaks of- 
ten of subliminal (L. sub, under) 
phenomena. But the word appeared 
much earlier in Eng., in other forms. 
Eliminate (L. e, out, beyond), meaning 
to put out of doors, expel, came to 
mean to get rid of (applied in several 
senses, from .physiology to algebra). 
Preliminary activity occurs before (L. 
pre, before) you reach the doorway to 
the main action. Postliminy (L. post, 
after) is a term in International Mili- 
tary Law, referring to the return to 
their former state, after a war, of per- 
sons or things taken during the con- 
flict. But L. limen might also mean 
the upper edge of the door, the lintel, 
whence (L. sub, under, up to) sublime 
— which first meant raised aloft; and 
sublimation, of something raised to a 
higher state — in chemistry, or in psy- 
chology. The word limit, boundary (L. 
limes, limit — ) is cognate with lim.en; 
and leaves us with a feeling that this 
is but the threshold of the subject. 
{Threshold itself is from AS. thersc, 
to tread — cp. thresh, thrash, to tread 

corn 1- old, wald, wold, ? wood of 

the doorway.) 

See limen. 


This word is a compromise between 
the Saxon and the Romance traditions. 
AS. lim, a limb, used as a verb, meant 
to draw a picture of. But this merged 
with old lumine, from OFr. luminer, 
whence Eng. illuminate (applied to 
manuscripts), from L. lumen, lumin — , 
light. Note that illustrate, illustration, 
originally meant (as in DuBellay's De- 
fence and Illustration of the French 
Lanquage, 1549) to add lustre to: 
illustrious is from earlier illustre, from 
L. illustris; illustrare, to shine upon, 
make glow, from in -\- lustrate, lustrat — ; 
akin to L lux, light. 

See sedan. 



This word, apparently from an early L. 
form, limpa, clear water, has had odd 
ranging. For nymphs inhabited the waters 
of ancient times ; by association with Gr. 
and L. nymphe (bride as well as sprite; 
cp. nuptials), the L. word became lymph, 
still used in Eng. as a body fluid. But 
even in classical Latin the association was 
closer ; Gr. nymphian meant maddened ; 
hence L. lymphaticus, Eng. lymphatic, 
pertaining both to frenzy and to the se- 
cretion of lymph, as from the lymphatic 

To limp, and limp fingers, are related 
to one another; but their ancestry is lost; 
though the adjective may be shortened 
from limber, which in turn may be cog- 
nate with L. lentis; cp. lent. 

line, lineage, lineament, linear. 

See obliterate. 


.^ee cloth. 


See tongue. 

See police. 


Frederick Walton found, in 1863, that 
burlap and linseed oil formed a good 
basis for fixing patterns on lasting ma- 
terial. From L. linum, flax -\- oleum, 
oil, he called the result linoleum. 


See chameleon. 

liquid, liquidate, liquor. 
See world. 

See licorice. 


Sec cloth. 

Lister (Listerine). 
See litmus. 


This word has doubled on itself. Gr. 
lite, prayer, developed the personal noun 
Gr. litanns. suppliant. Hence came the 
verb lifancucin, to pray ; from which the 
furtlv.T noun litancia. prayer. Through L. 
this came into Eng. litany, a public prayer 
— often sung, and in procession. 



literal, literate, literati, literature. 
See obliterate. 

lithium, lithography. 

See carnelian, element. 


Litmus paper, by which acids may be 
tested, was originally lakmose, from Du. 
lakmoes, from lak, Idc (Pers. lacca, red 
gum, from Sansk. laksha, animal dye, 
from rakta, past participle of ranji, to 
dye ; whence Eng. lacquer) -\- tnoes, pulp. 
This was altered by the sense of OE. 
lytyn, to dve. From this came the early 
Eng. litster, a dyer, which produced the 
proper name Lister, and thence Lister- 
ine, from Sir Joseph Lister's early work 
on antiseptics. But see alkali. 

litter. , 

The ancient litters of the queens, such 
as that of Cleopatra, were elaborate and 
gorgeous affairs. The word is from 
OFr. litiere, from LL. lectaria, from L. 
lectus, bed, from Gr. lektron, bed ; lexos, 
couch, from root lagh, to lie. 

In the middle ages, most persons were 
content with something less splendid; 
some strewn straw, e.g., might suffice; 
hence litter came to mean something 
strewn for a bed and— what with care- 
less habits— anything strewn about: 

Litter, meaning a brood, though influ- 
enced by the forms above, is from Icel. 
lattr, breeding-place, from leggja, to lay, 
from liggja, to lie. It is connected with 
AS. leger, couch, whence ME. layere, 
place for lying, camp, whence ME. letr, 
whence Eng. lair. 

This was OE. lytel, from OS. luitel, 
related to OE. lutan, to bow down, whence 
an early Eng. lout, to bow down. The 
lowly, then clumsy, lout is probably from 
this verb, influenced by lewd; cp. nn- 
coufh. . . , 

The OTeut. root laiso—, small (with 
the comparative suffix —iz) gave us Eng. 
less, lesser; whence least', there are also 
used less frequently, littler, littlest. Ihe 
verb to lessen is from this source; but 
lc.<!Son is from OFr. lecon from L. lec- 
tion—, reading, from legere, lee—, to 
choose, to read; cp. legible. To lesson 
some one is to "read" him a lesson; hence, 
to admonish, perhaps to lessen his pride. 
Let that be a lesson to you. 

Little Red Riding Hood. 

See tag. 



It may be possible to put on a false- 
hood and hide from what truth might 
bring; but livelihood has no such idea 
of shelter. It is a corruption of earlier 
lifelode, from AS. liflad, life-course, re- 
lated to lead, and lode in a mine; lode- 
star, guiding star; lodestone. There was 
also an earlier word livelihood, from 
OE. lyvelyhede, which meant liveliness; 
this form survived, and the other mean- 
ing. (Falsehood is from L. fallere, fals — , 
to deceive -| hood, from AS. hid, con- 
dition. Lead is from AS. laedan, casual 
form of lithan, to travel. Hence also 
laden. The OTeut. form laida gives us 
Eng. load.) The metal lead is from OE 
lead, MHG. lot, plummet; see plunge. 

See lady. 


This word might well have been an 
early Eng. word for servant {see I'ady) ; 
but it seems to have developed in the 
U.S., perhaps by a leisurely interpretation 
of G. Laiifer, runner, from lauf en, to 
run. Cp. scamp. Thus presently, which 
first meant immediatley, at the present in- 
stant, now means in a little while, don't 
hurry. The word present is from the 
present participle of L. (pre) praeesse. 
praesens, praesent — , to be before; in the 
sense of to be before one, at hand. The 
frequentative of this, praesentarc , pracsen- 
tat — , to place before, gives us Eng. 
presentation and the Christmas present. 
A presentiment, however, is from L. prne, 
pre, before + sen tire, sens — , to feel — 
whence Eng. sensitive; see ascend. 


See clam. 


This fine fish is really a lopster or 
leapster, from AS. hleapan, to leap. 
Thus OE. loppe, a flea (AS. fleogan, 
fleah, to fly. The Aryan root is plu, 
whence L. pluec, whence pulex, pulec — , 
flea; Sansk. pulaka, insect, from plu, to 
swim, fly.) and OE. hleapestre, diddncer. 
The shellfish derives more directly, how- 
ever, from L. lopusta, from locusta, a 
leaping creature (on land or in the 
water; hence, Eng. locust). There is 
also a Sansk. root langh, to leap, re- 
lated to AS. leax, and G. lox, the 
salmon, which leaps upstream to spawn. 

Leap is from a common Teut. family; 
Goth, hlaupan; G. lauf en, to run; OFr. 



aloper; ME. lopen, to run, whence Eng. 
lope. Eng. gantlet is from gat loP; see 
subjugate. Hence also interloper, first a 
sea poacher. 

Poach was earlier potch, from Fr. 
pocher, to pocket, from Fr. poche, pouch. 
To poach an egg is to hold it in a 
pouch while cooking. The Norman Fr. 
for poche was poque, the diminutive of 
which was pokete, whence Eng. pocket. 
Hence also is pock, used of a pocket in 
the skin, plural pox as in small pox. A 
pox on you! 

The orlop deck, or cover of the hold 
of a ship, is short for overlap, from Du. 
overloopen, to nm over. The wings of 
the lapwing may overlap (for lap, see 
lampoon), but the word is corrupted by 
folk etymology from AS. hleapan, to 
leap, -f- a typ^ wine, to waver ; OE. 
wincian, Eng. tvink (Winken, Blinken, 
and Nod) related to wince, first mean- 
ing to turn aside, as to dodge a blow; 
and to winch, from AS. wince, a pulley, 
a thing that turns. Antelope seems to be 
unrelated, though its origin is unknown; 
nor is there any connection with canta- 
loup, q.v. 

Leap Year is so called because (after 
February 29) each date jumps two days 
in the week, from the previous year. 
Thus, if your wife's birthday is July 4, 
in 1970 it will fall on a Saturday; in 
1971, on a Sunday; but it leaps to a 
Tuesday in 1972. Cp. fowl. 

locate, location. 

See lieutenant, permit. 

See yokel. 

locomotion, locomotive. 

5"^^. mute. 

See lieutenant. 

See lobster. 

lodestar, lodestone. 
See livelihood. 

See logistics. 

loft, lofty. 
See attic. 



This word, like clog (which ^vas at 
first a synonym) is onomatopoetic in ori- 
gin, suggesting cumbersome, bulky, clumsy 
movement ; also lug. 

The rate of motion of a ship was deter- 
mined (15th — 17th c.) by floating a piece 
of wood with a measuring device ; this 
was called a log. The record of speed 
thus maintained was kept in a log-book; 
this has been shortened to the ship's log; 
hence, the log of any journey. 

See Appendix II. 

See logistics. 


A short heavy piece of wood (a log, 
q.v., or clog) fastened to a man's leg, or 
a horse's, to check its movements, was 
also called a logger. By figure from this 
block of wood, a "blockhead" (stupid 
person) was also called a loggerhead. 
But the word was also applied literally. 
It was used of a long iron rod, with a 
big ball at one end; the ball was heated, 
then used to melt pitch, to thrust at an 
enemy. Heavy-headed creatures, includ- 
ing the snap turtle, were also called log- 
gerheads. From these last two meanings 
came the expression "to be at logger- 
heads^', meaning to quarrel sharply. 


See logistics. 


This is two entirely different words 
in one. As applied to the art of arith- 
metical calculation, it is one use of the 
many words from Gr. logos, word, from 
legein, to say. In Greek, logos shifted 
its meaning from 'word' to 'reason' ; 
hence, logic. In the sense of ordered 
knowledge, the suffix — ology or — logy 
is very common, from acology and apol- 
ogy through the many 'ologies" Carlyle 
complained even maid-servants are being 
taught, to soology and symology. Army 
practice has brought to attention the 
other logistics, from Fr. logistique, from 
loger, to quarter; whence also Eng. 
lodge and the theatre loge. 


When a new family came to a settle- 
ment, in American pioneer days, those 
already there, on a set day, joined in 
rolling down logs for the newcomers' 



home. Then, on the principle of "You 
scratcli my back and I'll scratch youm", 
logrollinr/ took its present meaning. 

lone, lonely. 

See alone. 


See awry. 


See lent. 


See pants. 


See subjugate. 


See necromancy; agnostic. 


See lady. 


See ballot, deal. 


Despite the frequency with which this 
word is used, it is not from a play by 
Shakespeare. Massinger and Field wrote 
a tragedy, The Fatal Dowry, printed in 
1632. In 1703, Nicholas Rowe produced 
his tragedy, The Fair Penitent, based 
on the earlier play. It was very popu- 
lar for a century ; from Lothario in it, 
Richardson drew -the figure of Lovelace, 
in his Clarissa Harlowe, 1747-8, which 
suggested the themq for Rousseau's 
Nouvelle Heloise, 1761. From Rowe's 
play, the "haughty, gallant, gay Lotha- 
rio" has given his name to the type. 


Roman baths were large and popular; 
professional masseurs worked with un- 
guents (L.ungere, unguent — , to anoint) 
and lotions. The word wash in L., though 
it took the form lavare, lot — {lotion), 
has the root lu, iram Gr. louein, to 
wash. Hence, to wash down is to deluge; 
to wash to a place (as a river does 
earth) gives us alluvial deposits. The 
water plant par excellence is the lotus. 
In L. a man who laved himself was a 
lava tor, the vessel or room for his wash- 
ing was a lavatorium; hence, Elng. lava- 
tory. By way of It. lavatrina, we have 
latrine. (Laboratory, of course, is a 
place where you labor, from L. labos, 
from rabos, strengfth: Sansk. labh, to 


get, perform, rabh, to seize). The deli- 
cate lavender (ME. lavendre, from Fr. 
lavande, from LL. lavendula) drew its 
name from its use in washing; from 
early times it was laid on fresh-washed 
linen to make it fragrant. LL. lavan- 
deria, whence OFr. lavandiire, with the 
feminine suffix — ess, gave us launder- 
ess, then laundress. Lava was first the 
name of a flow of water down a hill 
after a heavy rain. Lavish seems fo be 
from OE. lave, to pour out, confused 
with the other flow we' have been fol- 
lowing. When (jeorge Gissing in his 
Grub Street days as a poor journalist 
used the British Museum lavatory too 
extensively, the authorities posted a sign : 
"For casual ablutions only" (L. ab, off: 
washing off). See absolute. 

To anoint, first meaning to smear with 
an unguent, comes via OFr. enoindre, 
cnoint, from L. inungcre, inUnct — , from 
in, on, + ungere, to oil ; by the same 
path (without the prefix) came Eng. 
ointment; more directly, extreme unction. 

See ballot. 

See lotion. 


See Suucs. 


See lawn. 


See little. 


Sec vulpine. 

See furlough. 


Sec effrontery. 

See legible. 


This word would seem to be an an- 
cient telescope of L. lapis, stwie, and L. 
laus, praise, from the words placed on a 
tombstone. The tombstone y/zsoiloMenge 
shape; and the Prov. lausa, tombstone, 
slab, whence OFr. lauxe, roofing slate 
(of the same shape), became Fr. lo- 
sange. This has been applied to a de- 



sign in heraldry; then (from the dia- 
mond-shape coat-of-arms of widow or 
unmarried woman that adorned it) to 
the lozenge coach, then, to the medicinal 
candy, our lozenge, to help preserve us 
from its earliest meaning. 

lucent, lucid. 
See lamp. 

See atlas. 

See Prometheus. 


5"^^ log. (Thus luq is used in slang for 
a heavy, clumsy person.) 

lumbago, lumbar. 

See humble. 


We speak of the lumbering gait of 
an awkward person; this is from ME. 
lomeren, to walk clumsily, from ME. 
lome, from AS. lama, whence Eiig. lame. 
But the lumberyard has a longer story. 
Caesar speaks of the tribe of the Lan- 
gobardi (Longbeards) ; these became the 
It. Lombardi, who dwelled in Lombardy. 
In 16th c. Eng. they were the money- 
lenders (hence Lombard Street, which 
Pepys spells Lumber St.). The store- 
room for their pledges was called the 
Lombard-room ; it would contain mainly 
discarded household goods, which came 
to be called lumber, as in England it 
still is. In American pioneer days, when 
the land was cleared for farming, there 
were many felled trees lying around; 
these, being discarded material, were 
lumber — which later was put to good 
use. Timber is common Teut., meaning 
first house (G. Zimmer, room), then 
the material for building; Goth timrjan, 
to build; Gr. domos, house, from de- 
mein, to build — whence, via L. and Fr., 
domain; demesne; cp. dome. 


See meteor. 


Sec clam, luncheon. 


See pants. 


Lunch was originally a variant of 
lump (as bunch of bump, and hunch of 
hump), referring to a lump or chunk of 
bread. There is an 18th c. letter that 
mentions "a huge lunshin of bread"; 
luncheon, also spelled lunchion, is per- 
haps lunching, eating a slight meal. But 
there are other thoughts. 

The first use of lunch is as a trans- 
lation of Sp. lonja, a noon meal — which 
may therefore be the source. Certainly 
the form if not the meaning of luncheon 
(as it changed from a large lump of 
bread to a meal) is influenced hy nunch- 
eon, the much earlier word for noon 
meal. It is fancifully suggested that 
this is the "noon shun", resting and 
having a bite, in the shade, away from 
the heat of noon, like Sp. siesta. But 
nuncheon is from ME. noneschench, a 
noon draught, from AS. scencan, to 
pour out; OE. skinker, drawer of ale; 
Shakespeare (/ Henry IV, II,iv,26) 
uses "underskinker". TTie verb is AS. 
sceanc, from scanc, whence Elng. shank 
— the shank-hor\t being rsed as a hol- 
low pipe to stick in a bung-hole. Note 
that nuncheon, whence luncheon, was 
first an afternoon meal : noon, from L. 
nona (hora) the ninth hour, three p.m. 
Siesta is Sp., from L. sexta {hora), the 
sixth hour, twelve noon. Similarly, a 
matinee performance was first given in 
the morning, from Fr. matinee, from 
matin, morning; when the hour was 
changed, the name was kept. Church 
matins are from L. matutinae vigiliae, 
morning watches. Matuta, goddess of 
dawn (whence Eng. matutinal) , from L. 
maturus, early, ripened, whence Eng. 
mature. Cp. breviarv. 

Lump is common "Teut., from lup, lub, 
slow, heavy, whence landlubber, from 
lap, to droop, whence Eng. lap. Cp. 

Bump is imitative of the sound of a 
dull blow, then applied to the conse- 
quence. Bunch was first used of a 
hump (back), which is LG. Humpel, 
hillock, camel's humP; this replaced an 
earlier cr«w/>-backed {crumpet, a twisted 
cake, from' AS. crump, crooked: "cow 
with the crumpled horn"; all crumpled 
up; whence the Eng. triplets crump; 
crimp : put a crimp in it ; cramp, that 
doubles you up). Later, &MncA-backed 
was replaced by 17th c. hulch — , huck — , 
huckle — , hutch—, finally /»«nc/t-backed. 
Humped, meaning downcast, is from the 
slump of a dispirited person (look at a 



camel's expression). To have a hunch, 
a lucky notion, is to have your back 
up: it was considered lucky to rub a 
person's hunch — streeet urchins still try 
to do it, before a fight. 

See pylorus. 

See talc. 

See entice. 


See talc. 


This word has grown roundabout. 
There was a ME. licious, aphetic for de- 
licious; cp. delight. (Sometimes speech 
today shortens delicious to 'licious.) But 
there was also Eng. lush, juicy, succulent; 
under the spell of this thought, the sense 
and sound of the other word moved along 
to luscious. 

Lush itself is a variant of lash, loose, 
watery, via OFr. lasche from L. laxus, 
loose ; whence our Eng. laxative; cp. talc. 
Often what's luscious must be followed 
by what's laxative. 


See luscious. 


See limn. 


See element. 

See like. 

See Platonic 


This is short for Lynch law, or 
Lynch' s law. There are several claim- 
ants for the dubious honor of the origin. 
A Capt. William Lynch was said to 
have taken matters into his own hands, 
in 1776; a justice of the peace Charles 
Lynch is accused of the same procedure, 
about 1780. Both these men were Vir- 
ginians; South Carolina enters the con- 
test with Lynch' s Creek, where ca. 1770 
the "Regulators" used to meet. It is 
high time that the word became purely 


This was originally coined as a trade 
name, from Gr. lysis, a loosening (L. 
laxus; Eng. lax; cp. talc) -\- —ol, a 
suffix, pertaining to oil. Eng. lysis is used 
as a technical term in architecture and 
medicine ; and —lysis is a combining form 
in scientific terms, as electrolysis, loosen- 
ing or decomposing by electricity. 




This word, most often used of the 
dance macabre, may be (as the NED 
suggests) from OFr. macabre, from Mac- 
cabc : the dance of the Maccabees. If so, 
the mood would rise not from Judas Mac- 
cabeus but from his distant descendants 
of the hlerod line. Herodias. you may 
remember. Iiad married her uncle ; then 
her brotlier-in-law. another Herod, al- 
ready married, put aside his wife and 
took Herodias ; to all of this John the 
Baptist vehemently objected. Therefore, 
when upon Herod's birthday Herodias' 
daughter (by the first Herod) danced 
before her step- father, and he in his de- 
light promised her whatever she wished, 
at her motl -r's instigation Salome said 
(St. Mark'. 0, St. Matthezv, 14) : "Give 
me here John Baptist's head in a charger." 

Since the notion is that the word 
macabre is from the Hebrew, note how- 
ever that Heb. kabcr meant to bury ; and 
that Heb. m' — is a prefix with the 
sense, pertaining to. There is nonethe- 
less somctliing macabre in the result of 
Salome's dance of the seven veils. 

There are. however, many medieval rep- 
resentations of the chorea Machabaeorum, 
the dance of the seven martyred Maccabee 
brothers in Maccabees II of the Apoc- 
rypha; this, more soberly, is the likely 
source of the word. (Note also that, in 
Arabic, magbarah means cemetery). 


See Appendix II. 


The It. maccheroni (maccaroni) was 
a mixture of meal, eggs, Jind cheese. 
Hence macaronic verse, that written in 
a mixture of a modem tongue and 
Latin, or in a vernacular with Latin 
endings; ihe form and the name were 
first used in 1517, by Teofilo Folengo, 
called Merlinus Coccaius. In the late 
18th c, some Eng. fops formed the 
Macaroni Club, affecting to despise na- 
tive cooking; hence, the macaroni of 

Yankee Doodle Dandy. The familiar 
spaghetti is a diminutive of It. spago, 
cord. Vermicelli is the diminutive end- 
ing to L. vermis, worm. Hence also 
vermilion, applied to the little cochineal, 
the source of the dye. 

Macaroni, hence also the cake maca- 
roon, of a crushed paste, may come from 
It. maccare, to pound — possibly related 
to Gr. makaris, barley broth. 


See macaroni. 


This term for cynical and shrewd 
seeking of one's end by any helpful 
means is from Niccolo di Bernardo dei 
.Mnrhiai'elli, d. 1527, who enunciated 
such principles in his famous book The 
Prince, 1513. Many from his day to 
ours have sought to apply them. 


See Appendix II. 


See Appendix II. The apple is Mc 
In tosh, in the same Appendix. 


The prefix Gr. and Eng. macro — , long, 
large, is used in a number of Eng. words. 
Thus macrocosm is sometimes used of the 
entire ordered universe (Gr. cosmos, 
order; cp. police), as opposed to its epi- 
tome in the microcosm, man. Also macro- 
meter; and niacroscope, vs. microscope; 
cp. microphone — which, however, is bal- 
anced by a word using another Gr. and 
Eng. prefix, mega — , as also in megalithic 
(Gr. lithos, stone) ; megalo — is likewise 
used, as in megalosaur (Gr. sauros, lizard; 
cp. dinosaur) ; megavolt. 

From Gr. bios, life, whence Eng. biolo- 
gy, is formed macrobian, relating to long 
life. May you be macrobian! 


See macrobian. 




madame, madamoiselle. 

Sire dani«cl. 


See ache. 

See cloth. 

See immolate. 


This word, meaning a storehouse (Fr. 
magasin, from OSp. magacen, from 
Arab, makhizin, plural of tnakhean, 
Iron: klui.zcua, to store up) as in pow- 
der magazine, was a frequent title of 
18th c. books, as a storehouse of in- 
formation. By midcentury it was ap- 
plied to periodicals, which gradually 
monopolized the term. (Many words 
from Arab, retain the article al, the: 
this word does in the Sp. form almacen 
and the Port, armasem.) 

See month : May. 

See tycoon; month: May. 

magnesium, magnet, magnetic. 

See element ; Appendix II. 


See Appendix II. 

See pie. 

See island. 


This one word is from at least four 
sources. As in blackmail it is from OE. 
mael, speech, agreement. "White rent" 
was paid in silver; blackmail was paid 
in labor or cattle, for an agreement not 
to plunder (esp. along the Scottish bor- 
der). As in coat of mail, it comes 
from Fr. maille, from L. macula, spot 
(Eng. immaculate, spotless), then mesh 
of a net. As in the postman's bag, it 
is from OFr. male (Fr. malle, trunk) 
OHG. malaha, leather pouch. In the 
17th c, one spoke of a mail of letters; 
gradually the one term stood for the 
whole. _, 

An older Eng. mail (17th c, as The 
Mail, now The Mall, London) is from 

Fr. mail, from L. malleus, hammer 
(Ejig. mallet, also mall, whence maul), 
applied as the name of a game, also 
called pall-mall (It. pallamaglio, from 
palla, from balla, ball -\- maglio, from 
viallcns) . This was prononiicccl pcll-incll 
in 17th c. England; the name was trans- 
ferred from the game to the alley in 
which it was played, then to the street 
in London (cp. Botvling Green, New 
York City). The pleasant confusion of 
the popular game (and of the street, 
the hub of London club life) led to the 
sense of confusion, everything pell-mell 
— though some trace this, by a rhyming 
repetition (as in pitter-patter, helter- 
skelter, etc.) to Fr. meler, to mix, min- 
gle. Certainly the meanings of maU 
have mingled! 

Sec Slates. 

majesty, major, majority. 
See month: May. 


See ache. 

mal — . 

The T-. word male, ill (Fr. trtal) came 
into English as a prefix. Obvious in 
such words as maladjustment, maladroit, 
malcontent, it is present also in such 
words as malady and malign. 

Malady is via Fr. maladie from L. 
male Iwbens, the translation of Gr. kakos 
cxon; thus Eng. cachexy, from Gr. kakos 
bad, -|- cxis, condition, from exein, to 

Malign, and malignant are formed like 
the antonym benign : L. bene, well -|- 
genus, variety, kind, from gignerc, gen, 
to beget. 


Sec Appendix II. 


See marshal. 

See verdict. 


See defeat. 

malign, malignant. 

See mal — . 

See mail. 




mamma, mammal. 
See abbot ; cp. brassiere. 

See chichevache. 

— mancy. 

For varieties of divination, see necro- 


See command. 


See element. 


See necromancy. From one divinely 
inspired, this word has lapsed to indicate 
any frenzy, especially a mad desire. It 
is combined in such forms as dipso- 
mania (Gr. dipso — , from dipsa, thirst) 
and kleptomaniac (Gr. kleptes, thief). 


See Appendix II. 

See manoeuvre. 


When the Israelites looked upon the 
food that the Lord had dropped from 
the heavens, they said (Exodus, xvi,15) 
"What is this?" — for they wist not what 
it was. In Aram, man hu, what is it? 
And the early Eng. bibles kept the orig- 
inal words, thus creating it manna. But 
note that the sap of the tamarisk plant 
is Gr. manna, from Heb. man, from 
Arab. mann. 

See manoeuvre. 


Military manoeuvres may include many 
operations; the term has become genend 
by extension frc»n one class of opera- 
tion: that performed by hand (from Fr., 
from LL. manoperare, from L. manu 
operari, to work by hand)^ Much earlier 
into the language, applied to farming, 
the chief type of hand-work, the same 
word came in the form of manure, 
which from tillage in general came to 
refer to fertilizing, mixing by hand. 
(The same ending is in the word inure, 
from in, into -|- OE. ure, work, from 
OFr. uevre, from L. opera, work.) 
Manipulatioti is from L. manipulus, 
handful, from manus, hand ■\- plere. 

plet — , to fill; cp. foil. (The verb ma- 
nipulate was formed iroax the notm.) 
The manner of doing something is via 
Fr. maniire, from LL. manuarius, be- 
longing to the hand. Manual, both as 
a handbook, and in manual labor, is 
from the same source. Emancipate is a 
bit more roimdabout, dating from the 
days when the parent had power over 
the son: only the head of the family 
could acquire property: L. manceps, 
mancip — , one that acquires property, 
from manu-]rcapere, capt—, to tala by 
hand (whence also capture, captivate, 
etc Captive and caitiff are doublets, 
from L. captivus, from capt — . Captain is 
from qtiite other source ; see achieve.) : 
ex, out, whence emancipare, emancipat — , 
to take from the property holder. 

The tongs with which (first) the smith 
picked up hot metals were L. forceps, 
from formus, hot + capere, to take ; also 
thence Eng. forceps. The L. incipere, 
incept — was equivalent to Eng. under- 
take, to begin; hence Eng. incipient and 
inceptive; for recipient and more, see 

mansard (roof). 
See Appendix II, 

See remnant. 


This word is a variant of mantle, q.v. 

See necromancy. 


There was probably some early L. word 
for cloak, surviving or reformed in the 
Sp. manto, cloak ; in L. this appears only 
in the diminutive mantelum, mantcllum, 
cloak, cover. This came into OE. mantel, 
whence Eng. mantle. It traveled also via 
the Romance tongues, and in the 12th c. 
was reborrowed from Fr. into Eng. as 
mantel. The word meant a cloak, but also 
a wooden shelter, as for men-at-arms 
attacking a walled place ; the Fr. form 
has kept the second sense, as also in 
mantelshelf, mantelpiece. There also de- 
veloped the further diminutives mantelet, 
mantlet; and the later Fr. manteau was 
used as an Eng. word in the 17th c. There 
also developed the form nianttm, by con- 
nection with the city in north Italy; 
there are likewise a mantua gown, mantua 
silk ; and Mantuan may mean relating 
to the classical poet Virgil, who was 




born in Mantua. The word mantle came 
to mean any cover, as in the verb: a 
blush mantled her face. 


See mantle. 

See manceuvre. 

See mastifif. 


See manoeuvre. 

See shrine. 


Just as a cartoon (from Fr. carton, 
from It. cartone, augmentative of carta, 
card; whence both card and carton) was 
first something drawn on a card, so a 
map was something drawn on cloth, 
from L. mappa, loincloth. Made from 
clout- rags was the mop, a doublet of 
map — although the suggestion is made 
that the 15th c. mappe, mop, is short 
for mapple, from Mabel, as a general 
name of a housemaid. There is a 17th 
c. mob, neglige dress, then disreputable 
woman; also an 18th c. mob-cap, a 
cloth cap, both of which are from L. 
mappa; cp. mob. 

See maravedi. 


This race (approximately 24 miles; 
but loosely applied to any long distance 
event) draws its name from the city of 
Marathon, about that far from Athens. 
When the Greeks defeated the Persians 
there, in 490 B.C., the runner Pheidip- 
pides brought back the news — so swiftly 
that after telling it he dropped dead. 
Browning, in his poem Phedippides, tells 
the story. 


This Spanish coin (in gold, worth 
about $3.50; in copper, about one-third 
of a cent, and mentioned by Sir W. 
Scott and Sir W. S. Gilbert) was named 
from the ruling (Arabian) dynasty at 
Cordova (1087-1147) that coined it, the 
Almoravides, from Arab, al Murabitin, 
the Hermits, from murSbit, hermit. The 
fine feathers milady used to wear, of 
the marabou, draw their name from the 

same source. The Arabs called the stork 
the hermit bird, from its appearance 
and its solitary ways. 


See Appendix II. 

See month. 

See marshal. 

marge, margin. 
See mark. 

See primrose. 

marinated (herring), marine, marital, 
See lapis lazuli. 


This word, OE. mearc, originally meant 
a boundary; then, a sign of a boundary; 
then, any sign, hence an impression. It 
is cognate with L. margo, margin — , 
whence Eng. margin, which has kept the 
basic meaning. For a time, in the 17th 
c. margin was given the fancier ending 
margent; cp. hold; hence also Eng. 


The escaped slaves of the West In- 
dies were called Sp. ciwarron, wild. The 
Fr. (possibly mistaking this for ces 

■yi-iur. CCS, these) shortened it to 
marron. Since these fugfitive slaves 
roamed the desert islands, the English 
applied the term, maroon, to men put 
ashore on such islands. The color 
maroon is from Fr, marron, from It 
marrone, chestnut. 


See Castanet, maroon. 

See lapis lazuU. 

See primrose. 


This man has risen in rank; orij^- 
nally he was a horse-tender (from Fr. 
marechal, from OHG. marah, horse -f" 
scalh, servant). The feminine of marah, 
whence AS. mearh, was AS. mere, which 




gives us mare. Nonetheless, the Teut. 
kings considered the marshall their chief 
household officer; his title was trans- 
lated into LL. as count of the stable, 
comes stabuli, whence Eng. constable. 

Bad dreams were attributed, in the 
middle ages, to several causes. There 
was, of course, the nightmare, that bore 
folk off on a hideous ride; also, AS. 
mare was a demon, from Sansk. mora, 
destroyer, from mar, to crush. Shake- 
speare, King Lear III,iv, speaks of 
"the nightmare and her nine foals." 
Women were especially troubled by an 
incubus, a male demon that sought to 
lie with them (L. incubare, incubat — , 
to lie on, whence Eng. incubate, to lie 
on eggs to hatch them; incubation, the 
hatching of a disease ; incubator) ; there 
were laws covering the incubus, in the 
dark ages. The word is now extended 
to any heavy burden. Men were con- 
versely troubled by a succubus (L. suc- 
cuba, strumpet, from sub, sue, under 4" 
cumbere, from cubare, to lie. Whence 
also, Eng. succumb). Perhaps these 
were even worse than Freud! 

We are told, incidentally, that there 
were more feminine than masculine 
witches— the word first referred to 
either sex, but from their preponderance 
became exclusively feminine — because 
feminine means lacking faith in God, 
from fe (It., from L. fide) faith, -\- 
minus, without [L. femina is actually 
related to fellarf, to suckle, and filius, 
son, whence Eng. filial. Masculus is a 
diminutive of L. mar, male, whence 
OFr. masle, whence Fr. male, whence 
Eng. male. Neuter is L. ne, not -\-uter 
either, not either (gender) ; hence Eng. 
neutral, not of either side.] 

martial, martinet. 
See month: March. 


One suspected of witchcraft might be 
given the ordeal by fire, or the water- 
test: put her in, if she lives, it's proof 
the devil is helping her, therefore she 
must be killed. Death is witness to her 
innocence. Similarly, the death of the 
martyr is witness (Gr. martys, mar- 
tyr — , witness) to the glory of the Lxjrd. 

See Appendix II. 


5"^^ States. 

See lapis lazuli; marshal. 


See knick-knack. Mash is a brewing 
term, akin to G, Maisch, crushed grapes ; 
and to mix. 

See sadist. 


This was originally a lump of dough, 
from Fr, masse, from L. massa, from 
Gr. maza, from Heb. matzah. The cir- 
cular flat cake of the sacrament of 
Mithra was mizd; the cake in the rites 
of Osiris, mest. This sense may have 
influenced the religious meaning of 
mass, which is commonly traced through 
AS. maesse to L. missa, as used in 
Ite, missa est, that closes the service. 
(Why should the mass take its name 
from the words that announce it's 
over ? ) See mess, zymurgy, 


See States. 

See mystery; month: May. 

See mystery. 


We use this word for chewing well; 
but its origin shows us that the sub- 
ways did not first give vogue to the 
gvim-chewer. For the word (LL, mas- 
ticare, masticat — , to chew mastic) is 
from Gr. mastiche, mastic, a resin now 
used mainly for making varnish, but 
which was used as a chewing-gum in 
Greece and Turkey, But see whip. 


This was originally, belike, "he who 
gets slapped". It is from OFr. mastm, 
first a house servant, then a house dog; 
from a LL. form mansuetinus, from man- 
suescere, mansuet — , to grow used to the 
hand. (Applied to the dog, the hand 
might be for petting.) The present form 
of mastiff is shaped by the influence of 
OFr. fnestif. mongrel, from LL. mixitvus, 
from L. mixere, mixt — , cp. ache. 

The inceptive root in mausuescerc (L. 
manu — , hand, as in manujacturc: L. 
facere, fact — , to make; cp. affect, man- 
oeuvre), suescere, suet — .is also found 
in L. desuescere, desuet — , to grow out 




of using ; and in L. consuescere, con- 
suet — , to grow accustomed. There was, 
from the L. noun form, an early Eng. 
consuetude, which has lapsed into innocu- 
ous desuetude. 

L. sue sc ere, suet — is cognate with AS. 
sidu, custom ; Gr. ethos, character ; from 
Sansk. s'i'adha, will, custom; and indeed 
anthropologists state that ethics is deter- 
mined by custom. 

See indenture. 


This has nothing to do with the ear, but 
means shaped like a breast, from Gr. 
tnastos. breast. The mastoid process, 
however, is a nipple-shaped bone in the 
skull. Mastodynia is a disease of the 
breast ; mastoiditis, in the head. 

See element. 


See volume. A floor mat is direct 
(OE. matt), from L. matta. 


See ache. 

material, materiel. 
See irrelevant, matter. 


Many a drudging schoolboy will rec- 
ognize that you must be disposed to 
learning if you are to master mathemat- 
ics. The word itself warns those that 
read it: from Gr. mathematikos, dis- 
posed to learning, from monthanein, to 
learn. The early learning, being con- 
cerned chiefly with surveying (as after 
the Nile floods) and calculation of the 
calendar (cp. scholar), produced the 
limited sense of the word. 

See luncheon. 


See bull. 

See volume. 


This word, via Fr. matiere from L. 
materia, stuff of which things are made, 
is perhaps thus to be traced to L. mater, 
mother, mother-stuff. Hence also, mat- 
ter, the pus in a sore. Also the material 
of which things are made. This is via the 
L. adjective materialis. Since the mother- 
stuff is essential, we have the sense as in 
material witness, and it matters very 
much to me — though this is more often 
used in the negative. It doesn't matter. 

In the early 19th c, the Fr. form 
materiel came into Eng. army talk, used 
of supplies, in contrast to personnel, man- 


In the east, the bed was on the floor. 
The "place where things are thrown 
down", then esp. where the bedstuffs 
were laid, is Arab matrah, from tarha, 
to throw. From this, via OFr. materas, 
comes our mattress. The more luxurious 
sofa is directly from Arab, suffah. 

mature, matutinal. 
See luncheon. 


See mass, zymurgy. 


Mary Magdalen (of Magdala) having 
fallen at the feet of Jesus, wept, and 
repented, her name, Magdalen, is used 
as a general name for a repentant 
(wcMnan) sinner. Since she is pictured 
as weeping, the Eng. corruption of her 
name, maudlin, has taken this sense. 

See mail. 


The Egyptians have the reputation of 
building the most elaborate tombs, the 
pyramids ; indeed, teach Pharaoh's chief 
work was to build his own tomb. But 
in Halicamassus, in the 4th c. B.C., 
Artemisia built such a magnificent tomb 
to her late husband. King Mausolos, 
that all elaborate tombs since have taken 
his name. (It crumbled in an earth- 
quake, in 1375, having stood almost 
1800 years.) 

See morganatic. 

See volume. 


It was unnecessary for Samuel Ma- 
verick, Texan rancher about 1840, to 
brand his calves, because they pastured 
on an island. From this practice, the 




word applied to the unbranded calf was 
extended to politicians, esp. congress- 
men, that wear no party label. 


This is a shortening of L. maxima 
propositio, greatest statement, i.e., gen- 
eral truth. For maxim gun, sec Appendix 

See month. 


Sec Appendix II. 


-Men were so pleased with' this im- 
provement in ligliting that they named it 
from the good principle (mazda, Ormuzd) 
in the ancient Persian religion, as in the 


Sec Appendix II. 

See drink. 


See immolate. The meal you enjoy 
eating is from AS mael, measure, point 
of time; i.e., you eat at an appointed 


This unpleasant characteristic was 
once quite the reverse. For medy- 
moM//»e</, earlier meal-mouthed, is honey- 
mouthed. The Aryan word for honey 
is widespread: L. mel; Gr. meli; Goth. 
milith. This appears also in mildew, 
from AS. meledeaw, honey-dew — now 
reserved for a melon j but Coleridge 
ended Kubla Khan with the lines: 
For he on honey-dew hath fed. 
And drunk the milk of Paradise. 
The term honey-dew, mildew, for decay 
is based partly on the appearance of the 
mould, and partly on folk euphemism: 
call the evil fairies the good folk, and 
they'll spare you. 

Although honey was not an early 
word, OE. hunig (G. Honig) replacing 
Goth, milith, the bee was common Teut, 
AS. hco. Note that Swift's remark (in 
Battle of the Books, 1697, pub. 1704) 
that the bee gives us honey and tvax, 
"thus furnishing mankind with the two 
noblest of things, which are sweetness 
and light", is developed by Matthew 
Arnold (in Culture and Anarchy, 1869) 

as a symbol of the contribution of the 


This is several words: but first some 
that look like it must be distinguished. 
Demean and demeanor are from Fr. 
demener, from de, down-f-m«i^, to 
lead, from L. minari, to threaten: the 
idea seems to be that if you threatened 
someone, he did as you wanted: the 
word was used of driving cattle. Thus 
from the same word, with prefix a, 
from ad, to, comes amenable, easily led. 
Similarly, tractable means easily drawn; 
cp. distraction. Amenity, however, is 
from Fr. anu'nilr, from L. ama^nitas, 
ainn-nildf — , pleasantness, calm, from a, 
without 4- momio, wall, rampart, %.e., un- 
threatened. And demesne is a doublet 
of domain, from ME. demein, from 
OFr. demeine, from L. dominium; see 

Mean, meaning medium, also of me- 
dium value hence mediocre, is a doublet 
of median, from LL. medianus, from L. 
medius, middle, from Ayran root that 
gave AS. midd, whence Eng. mid and 
middle. Mean, common, is from OE. 
geinacnc, of the many, a common Teut. 
word, related to L. ro»iwM»ii.f, common; 
cp. ivnnunity. To inrmi, to have mean- 
ing, is a common Ayran form : AS. 
maciian; OHG. gimtmt — to have the 
viind on: .\S. geniynd ; L.mciLK, incut — , 
mind; wlionce mental, etc.; Sansk. ma- 
na.^; G. Minne, love; whence Minne- 
singer, singer of love; O'N.minni, mem- 
ory; Gr. mnemon, mindful; whence 
mnemonic ; cp. amnesty. Memory is the 
mother of the muses. 


There is a river, called the Meander, 
in Asia Minor, of which Ovid wrote: 
"The hmpid Meander sports in the 
Phrygian fields; it flows backwards 
and forwards in its varying course and, 
meeting itself, beholds its waters that 
are to follow, until it fatigues its wan- 
dering current, now pointing to its 
source, and now to the open sea." Do 
you wonder that we speak of mean- 
dering ? 

See taxi. 

See hegira. 



meddle, median, mediate. menthol. 

See immunity. See fee. 


See doctor. 


One who comes in the middle, be- 
tween you and the spirit world. Her 
success is less than medium. See im- 


This term for a light clay, used for 
tobacco pipes, is G. Meerschaum, sea- 
foam (Eng. mere and scum). Being 
an odd word, it has developed a story. 
A certain German, Herr Kummer, made 
such pipes ; in France, they were called 
pipes de Kummer. To the French, this 
sounded like pipe d'ecume de mer, pipes 
of seafoam. This was then retranslated 
into the German. In fact, the French 
and the German translate an earlier 
Persian, kaf-i-darya, sea- foam. 

See macrobian. 

See microphone. 

melancholic, melancholy, 
See complexion ; element : bismuth. 

Melba (toast). 
See Appendix II. 

mellifluous, mellow. 
See amalgam. 

See peach. 

See omelette. 


L. memor, mindfiil, developed the noun 
memoria, whence Eng. memory and Fr. 
memoire, Eng. memoir. Cp. amnesty. 


See cHichevache. 

See Appendix II. 

See mean, vehicle. 


This friend of Odysseus, Mentor, gets 
credit that's not his due: Pallas Athene, 
goddess of wisdom, assumed his form 
when she served as a guide to Tele- 
machus, son of Odysseus, q.v. 

See meticulous. 

mercenary, mercer, mercerize, 
See soldier. 


See saturnine. 

See element ; hermetical ; Appendix II. 


This word is from L. merces, merced — , 
reward; cp. soldier. But in church Latin 
(The Lord have mercy on my soul I) it 
was used of the reward in heaven for 
those that helped persons that could not 
repay them on earth ; by transfer it was 
then applied to the act in this world that 
was to win the Lord's favor hereafter. 


See primrose. Mere, as an adjective 
(it's a mere trifle) was originally an 
intensifying word, from L. merus, pure, 
unmixed. Similarly, quite, as in quite 
so, means altogether: it is a doublet of 
quit, from L. quietus, discharged, set at 
peace (whence Eng. quittance); and the 
word very lias almost lost its force : 
"I'm very glad to meet you" often 
seems less sincere than "I'm glad to 
meet you." Very meant truly, from ME. 
verrax, from OFr. verai, from LL. ve- 
rax, verac — , whence Eng. veracious, 
from L. verus, true. Thus verily means 
truly. There was an old Eng. veriloquous, 
which meant, not talking very much, but 
speaking the truth. 

See soldier. 


See posthumous. From the sense of 
noon, meridian came to mean the high- 
est point of the sun's journey through 
the sky; thence, a great circle of the 
terrestrial globe. 





See Appendix II. 

See soldier. 


See lapis lazuli. Merry England, de- 
spite "God rest you merry, gentlemen" 
and other associations, draws the ad- 
jective from AS. maera, famous. A 
merry Andrew, clown, may be traced to 
the eccentricities of merry (famous) 
Andrew Bord^, physician to Henry VIII 
of England. 


See mess. 


See cider. 

meso— , Mesopotamia. 

See mess. 


This first meant what was put on -the 
table, as a mess of fish, a mess of pot- 
tage; thus mess hall, officers' mess — not 
from Sp. mesa, table, used in Eng. of a 
plateau, table-land, from L. mensa; nor 
from Gr. mesos, middle, from which the 
frequent Eng. prefix meso — , as in meso- 
zoic, Mesopotamia (Gr. potamos, water; 
thus hippopotamus, water-horse) — but 
from OFr. mettre, mes, to send, to put 
(whence Eng. message), from L. mit- 
tere, miss — , to send, to put. From this 
source also come mission; admit, to send 
to, hence to let in and, figuratively, to 
acknowledge; dismiss (L. dis, away) ; 
commit, to put together (for safety), to 
entrust with a duty; commissary; com- 
mission, q.v., premiss, premise (L. pro- 
Positio praemtssa), that which is put 
before; permit, to send through, etc. 

From the fact that things are often 
put down confusedly comes the other 
sense of mess, mix up. To muss is Ameri- 
can for mess, though probably a mid 19th 
c. revival of an old Eng. variant, for 
around 1590 muss was a game in which 
small objects were thrown down and 
scrambled for . . . One should not make 
a mess of a mission. 

message, messenger. 

See mess, pass, trespass. 

See criss-cross. 

See parlor. 


This is rather directly from Gr. metal- 
Ion, mine, from Gr. metallan, to seek 
after, to explore. But this is probably a 
verb -|- the prefix meta — , used in many 
Gr. and Eng. words, with the senses of 
beside, across, after, beyond, and the like. 
Hence metamorphosis (Gr. morphe^ 
shape) ; metaphor (Gr. pherein, to bear). 
Metaphysics indicated the (thirteen) 
books of Aristotle after those dealing 
with physics; their subject matter made 
it easy for this to shift its sense, as 
though the term meant (as it thus came 
to mean) beyond the physical. 

See metal. 

See Spoonerism. 


The Gr. meteora, atmospheric pheno- 
mena, is from meteoros, raised up. from 
mcta — , beyond {cp. metal), -}- eor, from 
aeirein, to lift ; whence also aerial; cp. 

Medieval natural history distinguished 
four types of such phenomena. Aerial 
meteors were winds. Aqueous {cp. duke) 
meteors were rain, snow, dew. Luminous 
(L. lumen, lumini — , light, cognate with 
L. lux, luc — ,• cp. lamp) meteors includ- 
ed the rainbow, the halo. And igneous 
(L. ignis, fire; hence ignite; LL. ignis 
fatuus, foolish fire, will o' the wisp) or 
fiery meteors were the lightning and the 
"shooting stars" — we reserve the name for 
these last ; fragments that land on the 
earth are meteorites. 

See meteor. 


The person that is so afraid of going 
wrong that he pores over every detail 
of his work is well called meticulous 
(L. meticulosus, the ending osus, full 
of, the diminutive ul, added to metus, 
fear: full of little fears). Timid, timid- 
ity are from L. timidus, fearful, from 
timor, fear, from timere, to be afraid. 
{Timorous is as though from a L. 
timor osus, which does not exist.) Timor 
is traced to Sansk. tamos, darkness, 
from tarn, to be breathless, to choke — 
which is a symptom of fear. To make 



someone afraid is to intimidate him. 
Sansk. tamas also leads to L. tenebrae, 
darkness, whence tenebrosus, gloomy, 
whence Eng. tenebrous; akin to the 
Sansk. tarn is Eng. dim. 

Diminish, however, is from the older 
Eng. minish (L. di, dis, apart, with in- 
tensive force), from L. minuta, small, 
whence Fr. menu, a small portion; min- 
uet, a dance with short steps, from 
minucre, minut — , to make small. The 
comparative of the adj. small, L. minor, 
minus, gives us directly a minor, and 
the minus sign. Minute, meaning tiny, 
was first in Eng. pronounced precisely 
like minute, a small measure of time 
or space. The meaning of menu may 
come, not from the size of the portion, 
but from the fact that the separate 
details of the meal are listed. 

See police. 

mew, mewl, mews, miaow, miaul. 
See mute. 


See Appei dix II. 

See isinglass. 


Sec States. 

See microphone. 


Sec inacrobian. 


In the Gr. alphabet, the letter o oc- 
curs twice, with sepaiate symbols: omi- 
cron and omega — which mean, respec- 
tively, little and hig o, like Big Klaus 
and Little Klaus in the tale. Thus meg- 
aphone means big talk (loud speaker) ; 
but microphone (a much more recent 
word) takes little talk and makes it big. 
This word was earlier (ca. 1890) micro- 
andiphone, for hearing little sounds. 
There is also a patented instrument, 
Magnavox, which comes not from Gr. 
but from L. magna, great + :;ojr, yoc — , 
voice; cp. entice. A micrometer is for 
measuring small things (from wttcro -|- 
meter, measure). A microbe is a small 
particle of life (Gr. hies, life; whence 
biology; cp. logistics). There are many 
more. Alpha is the first Icter, and ome- 


ga the last, of the Gr, alphabet; hence, 
from alpha to omega means from start 
to finish, from soup to nuts — which you 
can get via the microphone. 

See mean. 

See schlemihl. 

See mean. 

mid- Victorian, 
See victoria. 


There is a spelling of this, meedwife, 
as though the woman were there for 
the meed or reward involved. It is 
much more properly the natural help- 
fulness of women in the hour of need: 
midwife is the with-wife (G. tnit), 
ready to help. Wife is the feminine 
form, changed from the AS. midwyrhta, 
with-wright, a co-worker or assistant. 
The Romans had exactly the same feel- 
ing, whence L. obstetrix, the feminine 
ending on L. obstitere, obstet — , to stand 
by; whence our more formal obstetri- 
cian — who turns out to be just a mid- 
wife after all I 

See immunity. 

See mealy-mouthed. 


This is a word direct (AS. mil) 
from L. milia, plural of mille, a thou- 
sand (paces). The Roman mile was 1,618 
yards; our own, 1,760. Break this down 
into paces, and you'll see the sense of 
the saying, "There were giants in those 
days" — until you bring the step back to 
normal by counting the Roman pace as 
the movement from one foot until that 
foot moves ag^n. 

Millennium (L. mille -\- annus, year), 
the thousandth year, was the time when 
the world was expected to come to an 
end. A millepede {pes, ped—, foot; c^. 
pedagogue) is a thousand-legger. Mil- 
lion and milliard are numbers coined 
from mille. 

See immolate; dollar. 




millennium, millepede. 
See mile. 


In the 16th century much of the 
English finery was imported from Mi- 
lan; especially bormets, ribbons, gloves. 
A Milaner, whence Eng. milliner, was a 
dealer in such articles; then particularly 
a maker of hats. 

See mile, number. 

See racy. 

See immimity; mean. 

See mongrel. 


This brings to mind a small picture, 
as though the word were related to L. 
minor, minus, less. But originally the 
word had nothing to do with the size; 
it is from It. miniare, miniat — , to paint 
with red lead, minium. The sound of 
the word altered the sense. 

See month: May; mystery. 

See mean. 

See States. 

See month: May. 

See Europe. 


See calamity, fee. 

minuet, minute. 
See meticulous. 

See emir. 

See lapis lazuli. 


See abuse. 


Those that fashion words are often 
drawn into self -betrayal, or at least 
self -portraiture. If a man does not 
agree with you, he is obviously a 
wretch ; thus the present sense of mis- 
creant, from OFr. mescreant, present 
particple of mescreire, from L. miscre- 
dere, from mis (AS. mis — , whence 
Eng. miss confused with OFr. mes, from 
L. minus), away, zwry -\- credere, cred- 
it — , believe, whence Eng. credit. The 
term, as Unbeliever, was first applied 
to the Saracens, tVen to rascals in gen- 
eral. See agnostic. 


It is fit that we picture the miser as 
one wretched (L. miser, whence misera- 
ble) in the midst of plenty. The word 
probably took this meaning by joining 
an OE. micher, "a rich man that pre- 
tends to be very poor", from OE. 
myche, from OFr. miche, from L. mica, 
crumb; thus, a man that gives out bread 
not piecemeal but "crumbmeal". 

See miser. 


See miscreant. Miss, short for mis- 
tress, is from OFr. maistresse, feminine 
of maitre, whence Eng. master, mister, 
from L. magister, from magis (old sim- 
ple form of the comparative maior, re- 
placed in classical L. by magnus) ; 
whence Eng. magistrate; cp. month: 
May. L. maior, superior, gives us both 
major and mayor. 

missile, mission, missionary, missive. 

See compromise, mess. 


Sec States. 

Sec States. 

See mistletoe. 

See mystery. 


Why do we connect the mistletoe and 
Christmas? When we speak of a white 
Christmas, we must note that of course 
the sun is then obscured; Balder, the 
Norse sun-god, was killed with a twi^ 
of the mistletoe. The toe is from AS. 



tan, twig, with the n dropped because 
later it was thought to mark the plural 
and thus be unnecessary (plural as in 
children, oxen, etc.). AS. mistel is a 
diminutive of mist, which is still Eng. 
for fog — but in G. mist means dung: 
the root is Teut. migh, to sprinkle, re- 
ferring either to fine rain or to urine. 
(No direct connection with pessi»?«<, 
q.v.) The plant mistletoe is named, per- 
liaps from the legend that it grew from 
bird-droppings, perhaps from the glue, 
or bird-lime, the berries contain : ODu. 
mistel, bird-lime. 

See mystery. 

See abuse; urn. 

mix, mixo— , mixture. 
See ache. 


"Except February, which, in fine 
Has 28, in Leap Year, 29." 
See amnesty. 


In the late 17th c. it became fash- 
ionable to speak in fragments of words, 
much as now we speak of new projects 
by their initials. Thus mob is an abbre- 
viation of L. mobile vulgus, the fickle 
throng. Cp. chum. Note that tmlgus. 
first meaning the common (people) ; 
still, in vulgar fraction, was soon (by 
the supposedly educated) given its pres- 
ent sense, in vulgar. Common itself was 
likewise corrupted by those tha"t did not 
vote in the House of Commons. The 
Vulgate bible (Jerome's version, 4th c.) 
was one made common, from L. vul- 
gare, vulgat — . For common, see com- 
munity. Cp. map. 


This word comes via It. moccare from 
LL. form muccare, to wipe the nose ; the 
gesture was taken as a sign of scorn. 
The verb is from LL. muccus, from L. 
mucus, Eng. mucus; the adjective appears 
in Eng. mucous membrane. Gr. forms 
are mykton, nose ; myxa, slime ; cp. ache. 
There is also Eng. muck, from muk, mire, 
manure, related to OTeut. meuk, soft. A 
man that (figuratively) pokes around in 
the slime is a muckraker. The libertine 
rake, by the way, is short for rakehellion 
or rakehell, perhaps by folk-etymology 
from ME. rakel, reckless. Reck, AS. 


reccan (-f- — los, without), meaning to 
consider, is a variant of reckon, AS. 
gerecenian, to count, AS. racu, account; 
the word is related to the garden rake 
(AS. raca; common Teut.) in the basic 
sense of heaping, bringing together. If 
you mock the muckraker, there may be a 

mode, model, moderate, modest, 
See accommodate. 


See cloth. 

moire, moire. 

These words, borrowed from Fr., were 
taken into Fr. from Eng. mohair, earlier 
tnocayare ; cp. cloth. Mofiair became 
Fr. mouaire, hence moire; the word was 
applied to a mohair cloth of a "watered" 
appearance. Then the Fr. developed a 
verb, moircr, to water cloth, the past 
participle of which, moire, watered, be- 
came itself the name of a material. 


The invitation to wet your lips is im- 
plicit in this word, from OFr. moiste, 
ironi L. )nustens, juicy, musty, from L. 
musteus, new wine. The word, however, 
may come via medieval consideration of 
hot, cold, dry, and wet — indicating some- 
thing that is none of these, but L, 
mixtus, mixed, whence OFr. moiste, 
wiience Eng. moist. 

See immolate. 

See amalgam. 

See omelette. 

See element. 

moment, momentum. 
See mute. 

monarch, monastery. 
See monk. 

See week. 

monetary, money. 
See fee. 




This word has not suffered a lapse; 
from its earliest days it was a sign of 
contempt — but in early days the nobles 
held all traders in scorn. Monger is 
from AS. mangian, to trade; L. mango, 
a dealer. We use it in such compounds 
as rumor-monger, war-monger, 


To be among persons is to be mixed 
with a crowd, from AS. mang, mixture, 
from mengan, to mingle; the AS. phrase 
corresponding to among is on gemang. 
Mingle is from the frequentative form 
of mengan, ME. mengelen. The product 
of a mingling is a mongrel (from AS. 
mang -|-a double diminutive, er -\- el, with 
a pejorative sense, as in wastrel, one 
that wastes. For waste, cp. waist, 

See fee. 


Before the monasteries gathered them 
together (Gr. monasterion, from mona- 
chein, to live alone, from monos, alone) 
what was emphasized about the monk 
was that he dwelt apart, as an anchor- 
ite. Anchoret or anchorite, earlier 
anachorete, is from Fr., from Gr. 
anachoretes, from ana, back -{- chorein, 
to go: they went back to lonely places. 
The present spelling (with one a 
dropped) is through the influence of 
Eng. anchor, anchoret, the thought be- 
ing, in popular etymology, that the first 
syllable was Eng. an, ane, one, alone. 
This is not the same as the word an- 
chor, for holding a ship, which is L. 
ancora (the h is added, this time, by 
mistaken thought of the Gr. ch, k), 
from Gr. ankyra, from ankos, bend ; the 
root is ank, whence Eng. noun angle. 
The verb angle, to fish, is the name for 
the object transferred to its use: from 
AS. angel, diminutive of AS. anga, 
onga, prick, goad; cognate with L. un- 
cus, hook, from Gr. ankos. See Anglo- 
Saxon. (For angel, see evangelist.) 

The Gr. monos, one, alone, becomes 
the prefix mono — in many Eng. words, 
e.g., monarch (Gr. archon, ruler, from 
archein, to rule) ; monopoly (Gr. polein, 
to sell) ; monocle (L. oculus, eye, 
whence ocular, oculist) ; monogamy (Gr. 
gametes, husband, gamete, wife, gamos, 
marriage, whence Eng. gamic, gamete; 
bigamy, two; polygamy, many) ; mono- 
theism (Gr. theos, god; atheism, with- 


out; polytheism); this might grow mo- 

Eng. gammadion (shaped like Gr. 
gamma, from Hebrew gamal, camel, cp. 
dromedary) in the 15th c. fylfot, is 
another name for swastika, a. universally 
found symbol : swastika, from Sansk. 
svastika, from svasti, well, from* su, 
good, -f- as, to be. The Eng. slang gams, 
legs, is from heraldry gamb, leg, from 
Fr. gambe, jambe, leg. A gammon of 
bacon is from OFr. gambon, whence 
Fr. jambon, from LL. camba, gamba, 
ham, from Gr. kampe, bend. Gammon 
and spinach, gammon meaning nonsense, 
backgammon, are from AS. gamen, 
game, sport (to make game of), a 
common Teut. word, from Goth, gaman, 
taking part, from ga — , together + man, 
man. The sense of game, able to en- 
dure, is from the spirit of the game- 
fowl, in cock-fighting. A game leg, 
however (earlier gammy, from OFr. 
gambi, bent), is another variation of 
gamba, leg. Gambol is from Fr. gam- 
bade, from It. gambata, from L. gam- 
ba; gamble is a combination of this and 
AS. gamen. A gambit in chess (sacri- 
fice to gain a better position) is from 
OFr. gambet, from It. gambetto, a 
wrestler's trip, from L. gamba. The 
viol da gamba is the large one, played 
while held between the legs. But don't 
try to gamble (or gambol) with a 
monk! Also, see pretzel. 


Ape is common Teut., AS. apa; a 
a name probably brought with the ani- 
mal into Europe. But in the medieval 
beast tales, the various animals were 
given names. Best known of these tales 
is probably the Romance of Renart or 
Renard or Reynard the Fox. Reynard 
is a variant of OHG. Reginhart, strong 
in counsel. In these tales, the son of 
Martin the Ape was Moneke (possibly 
from an OHG. proper name; perhaps a 
diminutive of It. monna, female ape, of 
unknown origin). From the popularity 
of the tales, the name for the monkey 

See buck. 

mono-, monocle, monogamy, mono- 
poly, monotheism, monotonous. 
See monk. 




The original sense of this word was 
a divine portent, or warning (from Fr. 
monstre, from L. monstrutn, from mon- 
ere, to warn). But as misshapen crea- 
tures were accepted as lessons from 
God, the sense passed by this road to 
any marvel, but esp. one disproportioned, 
monstrous, beyond measure. But the 
word is influenced by and associated 
with L. monstrare, to show, which gives 
Eng. demonstrate, and (from Fr. mon- 
strance, from LL. monstrantia) Eng. 
monstrance, the religious vessel in which 
the Host is exposed. Muster, which 
first meant to make a showing, then 
to gather as a show (of force), is 
OFr. mostrer, whence moustrer (re- 
stored in Fr. to montrer, to show: cp. 
insult), from L. monstrare. Thus it is 
natural to see monsters at the circus 
freak show. 

See monster. 


5"^^ States. 


This is a common Teut. word, AS. 
monath, from moon, from AS. mono; 
Gr. mene, whence L. mens, whence Eng. 
menstrual, etc. 

January is the doorway (L. janua, 
door) of the year. The Roman gate- 
god Janus, had two faces; one looked 
forth; the other, within. The guardian 
of the door is still called the janitor. 
lanuciry comes ultimately from the Ary- 
an root, ya, to go. 

February is the. month of the feast 
of cleansing (L. februa, cleansing; akin 
to L. futnus, smoke, whence Eng. fume; 
to fume in anger is to have the brain 
clouded as with smoke; fumatory; fumt- 
f!(ite: fumade, also fair maid, a smoked 
herring; the fumarole of a volcano; 
jumidity: perfume— L. per, through— 
from Gr. thymos, smoke, spirit, from Gr. 
theos, God, whence Eng. theism, en- 
thusiasm— the God within one — etc., 
from Sansk. dhuma, smoke, whence 
Eng. dust. Dust thou art. to dust re- 
turnest . . .). During this period, Ro- 
man women sacrificed to Juno Februa. 
March is the beginning of fair weath- 
er, when campaigns can start again; 
hence it is Mar^ month (L. Mars, 
Mart — , god of war, whence Eng. mar- 
tial and. via the name Martin, a martinet 
—perhaps from a Central Martinet im- 
der Louis XIV of France). March was 


the first month of the Roman calendar. 

April is the month when flowers come 
forth : L. Aprilis, from aperire, apert — , 
to open, whence Eng. aperture, from ap- 
parere, apparit — , to appear; apparition, 
from ad, to -\~parere, to be seen, to 
wear, whence apparel, apparent. There 
may also be some influence of Gr. 
aphros, foam, whence Aphrodite, q.v., 
goddess of love, to whom the month 
was sacred. {Apparel may be from the 
idea of matching one's garments, from 
Fr. a, to + pareil, like, from LL. ? ap- 
pariculare, from L. pariculum, diminu- 
tive of par, equal. Cp. auction.) 

May is the month of the greater god 
(magnus, great, maior, greater, whence 
Eng. majority), deus maius, Jupiter. 
Major and majesty are also from this 
source; from the doublet in L.magister, 
greater, come magistrate and, via OFr. 
maistre, master. Similarly from minus, 
less, come minority arid minister, servant 
(of the Lord). Cp. meticulous, miss. 

June is the month of the famous 
Roman gens (family), /untttj; some say, 
the month of the juniores, the youth 
taken as soldiers of the state. 

July is named (by Marc Antony) 
from the last Roman ruler before the 
Emperors, Julius Caesar. Cp. shed. 

August is the month of the first 
Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Re- 
fusing to have fewer days than his 
adopted father, Julius, he borrowed a 
day from February and gave August 31 

September is the original seventh 
month (L. septem, seven). 

October is thus the eighth month; 
November, the ninth; 
December, the tenth. 
The Julian (Roman) calendar in B. C. 
46 established the year as 365]^ days, 
catching up the fraction every leap year, 
q.v. This is 11 minutes more than it 
takes the earth to travel around the sun, 
and by 1581 March 21 was late; it came 
10 days after the vernal equinox, q.v. 
Therefore Pope Gregory XIIL ip 1582, 
called the day after October 4 October 
15; he changed the Roman (Old Style) 
calendar so that years ending —00 were 
not leap years unless divisible by 400. 
The Gregorian (New Style) calendar, 
with the year beginning on January 1, 
was not adopted in Great Britain until 


This word, revived in the cartoon Min- 
nie the Moochcr. is at least as old as the 



15th century. From I'r. mouchcr, to blow 
the nose at {cp. mock) : the verb was 
used in the. sense of to pretend poverty ; 
then (from beggars' ways) to slouch 
along, to loaf ; hence, to play truant. It 
is probably connected with OFr. muchier, 
to hide, whence early Eng. michc, to lurk, 
to intend mischief. This sense probably 
remains iii the words of Hamlet, when 
the dumbshow is played {Hamlet, III. ii, 
158) : "Marry, tliis is miching mallecho ; 
it means mischief." 

5"^^ wormwood. 

See camelian. 


Some questions can be readily an- 
swered; some not at all. A moot ques- 
tion is one that it takes a town meet- 
ing to answer, from AS. mot, gemot, 
meeting; OSax. motion, to m^^/, whence 
AS. metan, whence Elng. meet. Out of 
your history classes may come memories 
of the old Saxon tuitenagemot, meeting 
of the wise men (AS. witt, sense, from 
AS. witan, to know, whence Eng. v)it. 
The root is widespread: Goth, witan, L. 
videre, Sansk. vid, to perceive. Hence, 
one's mother wit, and the rest). 

5"^^ map. 

moral, morale, morbid, morbific, 
morbus, mordant, more. 
See remorse. 


In feudal days, on the morning after 
marriage, it was the custom of the lord 
to give his wife a special gift — an es- 
tate, belike, or an umbrageous castle. 
But if he loved s<Mneone too far be- 
neath him in rank to marry — his titles 
and possessions could not pass on to 
her children — he would mate with her 
in matrimonium ad morganaticum (L. 
matrimonium, marriage, whence matri- 
mony, from mater, matr — , mother, cp. 
volume; morganaticum, pertaining to the 
morning : G. morgen, whence OE. mor- 
wen, whence Eng. mom, mormng) : that 
is, she would receive the morning gift 
only. This was a morganatic marriage. 


See atone. 

morn, morning. 
See morganatic 

See cloth. 

moron, morose, morphine, 


See remorse. (Moron is perhaps the 
only word voted into the language. But 
note that ampere, from the Fr. scientist 
Andre Ampere, 1775-1836, was adopted 
at the international Electrical Congress 
held in Paris, 1881.) 

morris (chair, dance). 

5"^r Appendix II. 

morsel, mortal. 
See remorse. 


When an impoverished heir (eldest son 
of a noble) wished to borrow money, he 
would sign a pledge to pay when he 
came into the estate, that is, when his 
father died. This was called a mortgage, 
death pledge. For mors, mart — , death, 
sec remorse. Gage, though French, is of 
Teut. origin, cognate with Goth, uadi, 
AS. wedd, pledge, as in wedding : plighted 
troth ; cp. salary. Also see greengage. 

To pledge is via OFr. plegier from LL. 
plevier, from a Teut. verb, AS. pleon, 
to take a risk ; G. pflegen, whence G. 
Pflicht, that which is pledged, duty; and 
Eng. plight, meaning pledged. If, how- 
ever, you find yourself in a sorry plight, 
you have been "folded" improperly, or 
"worn at the folds"; this is from Fr. 
plit, condition ( Eng. plait and Plfot have 
kept the earlier sense) via OFr. pleit 
from L. plicare, plicat — , to fold (whence 
also implicate, to fold in; cp. plagiar,- 
ism) ; or L. plectere, plect — , to weave. 

See Islam. 


See alkali. 

See woman. 

motion, motive, motor, moult. 
See mute. 

See remorse. 

See bank; somersault. 




See muscle. 


See whip. 

move, movement. 
See mute. 

See complexion. 

muck, muckraker, mucous, mucus. 

See mock. 

muff, muffle. 
See camouflage. 


On the English stage, in the early 
19th c, a number of plays pictured 
officers off duty wearing dressing gown 
and tasselled cap. This resembles the 
costume of a Mohammedan priest, Arab. 
mufti; whence a man wearing plain 
clothes, who on duty would be in uni- 
form, is said to be in mufti. 


This is a borrowing from Algonkin 
Indian mugquomp, chief. It was used 
by James G. Blaine, 1884, of those that 
bolted the party ticket, refusing to sup- 
port him for the presidency, although 
enrolled members of his party. It has 
perhaps been best defined, recently in 
Congress (also attributed to Harold W. 
Dodds, President of Princeton Univer- 
sity), as a man that sits on the political 
fence with his mug on one side and his 
wuuip on the other. 

See mule. 


This was first (L. mulus, cognate witii 
Gr. myklos, ass) the offspring of a male 
ass and a mare. The offspring of a she- 
ass and a stallion was Eng. hinny. L. 
hinnus, Gr. ginnos, akin? to Gr. gynes, 
woman. Then Sp. and Port, mulato, from 
mulo, mule, was applied to any hybrid; 
hence, Eng. mulatto. Some, however, 
associate this word (and L. mulier, 
woman, whence Eng. mulier, muliebrity) 
with the black? Assyrian goddess My- 

5"^^ infantry. 

mum, mumble, mumbledy-peg. 
See mute. 


In his Travels in the Interior of Af- 
rica, Mungo Park describes a custom by 
which noisy wives are quieted (for the 
civilized procedure, see ducking-stool). 
The Kaffirs summoned a spirit, who, 
after hideous howling, seized and beat 
the woman. Mungo Park calls this bogy 
Mandingo; the more widely used term 
is Mumbo-jumbo. 

See mute. 

See cram. 


There was (perhaps) a Baron Mun- 
chausen, 1720-1795; there was certainly 
a German adventurer, Rudolph Erich 
Raspe, who, to keep himself alive in 
England (whither he had fled after 
thievery on the Continent), wrote, in 
1785, the Narrative of the Marvellous 
Travels of Baron Munchausen — one of 
the endless series of travelliars. 

See vague. 

See immunity. 

See avalanche. 


Most early deaths were violent ; murder 
meant just death, AS. morthor, common 
Teut. G. Mord; L. mors, mort — ; cp. 


Have someone "make a muscle" and 
then relax his arm ; to the imaginative 
it might seem a little mouse crawling 
back and forth. It did to the Romans; 
for muscle is from L. musculum, dimin- 
utive of mus, mouse. 

This word came through the Fr. ; 
much earlier, spelled muscle, muxle, and 
finally mussel, came the same word ap- 
plied for similar reasons to the shell- 

The African rodent jerboa is named 
from Arab, yarbu, loin muscle, because 
of its strength for jumping. 




See amuse. 

See salary. 


See mess. 

See muscle. 

See cloth: muslin. 

See bronco. 

See monster. 

See immunity. 

See mute. 


This is a word that has doubled back: 
ME. muet is from LL. mutettus, dimin- 
utive of L. mutus, mute; then the ME. 
form was changed by association with 
the original Latin word, whence Eng. 
mute. The root is L. mu, a natural 
sound indicating a low murmur, akin to 
ME. momme, a low sound, hence silence, 
as in "Keep mum I" "Mum's the word!" 
The frequentative of momme was ME. 
momelen; whence mumble. Mummy is 
Fr. momie, from Arab. mUmiyah, em- 
balmed body, from Egyp. mum, wax. 

The game mumbely-peg, mumbledy-peg,. 
used to be mumble-the-peg; from the 
penally : pulling out by the teeth 
{mumbling) a pe? driven into the grotmd. 

Several unrelated words may be con- 
fused because of the same strong initial 
sound. Mutilate is from L. mutilare, to 
lop off, from mutilus, maimed, from 
Gr. mytilos, hornless. Mutation is from 
L. mutare, mutat — , to change; that 
which cannot be changed is immutable; 
that which is changed by agreement is 
mutual (L. mutuus). The Aryan root 
is moi, to change, cognate with mov, to 
move, whence L. movere, mot — , whence 
move; motive (that which impels or 
moves one) ; motor (the moving force) ; 
motion, a doublet of movement, as is 
also moment, from L. momentum. Mo- 
ment earlier meant a cause of move- 
ment. When it became used for a small 


movement of time (the twinkling of an 
eye), the language borrowed directly 
from L. for momentum. Compounds in- 
clude commotion (L. com, together) ; 
promotion (L. pro, forward) ; locomo- 
tion (L. loco, from a place, to a place), 
locomotive; emotion (L. e, out: this 
first meant migration ; then a moving 
out of oneself, as in the slang phrases 
"Give out!" "Emote I"). Via. LL. mo- 
vita, whence OFr. meute, comes early 
Eng. mute, a riot; whence mutine, mu- 
tinous, mutiny. From mutare, to change, 
via Fr. comes mew, used of changing 
feathers; the mew was thence the place 
where hawks were put at moulting time 
(moult is also from L. mutare, but 
through the Teut., AS. mouten) ; since 
this was usually near the stables, the 
word meu-s came to mean the cluster of 
stable-houses. To mew is also an echoic 
word, of the sound of a cat, also 
miaow; the baby's sound is slightly more 
pleasant, miaul or mewl, as in the first 
of the seven ages of man "mewling and 
puking in the nurse's arms" (As You 
Like It, II, vii, 145) : (JKxi keep you with 
good capon lined! 

mutilate, mutinous, mutiny, mutual. 

See mute. 


In one of Sir Walter Scott's most 
popular books, Ivanhoe (1819), Wamba 
the jester delves into etymology for 
Gurth the swineherd. He points out that 
while the domestic animals are alive and 
must be tended, they are simple Saxon 
calf and sheep, cow, pig, swine, and the 
rest ; but when they are dressed and ready 
to be served before the Norman con- 
querors, they are Milord Norman 
(French) veal, pork, mutton, beef. Had 
Wamba looked a bit further back, he'd 
have found several of the words common 
Aryan, for these animals were early 
domesticated, and their names are old. 

Veal is via OFr. viel and vedel from 
L. vitellus, diminutive of vitulus, calf. 
Vitulus itself is a diminutive, not of 
vita. Hit (the lively little one : L. znta; 
Eng. vital, vitality; cp. vitamin) but — 
just the reverse! — of L. vetus, old 
(whence Eng. veteran and, via L. in- 
veterare, inveterat — , to make or grow 
old, Eng. inveterate) , related to ve — , the 
Aryan root for year : thus, first, a year- 
ling. See calf. Pork is directly from Fr. 
pore, from L. porcus, whence also Eng. 
porcine and porcupine, from L. porcus -j- 
spina, thorn, whence also Eng. spine. 



Lamb is common Teut., AS. lamb. Sheep, 
ewe, ram, are common Teut. : AS. sceap; 
AS. ramvi; AS. eowu, Sansk, avi. The 
pig was ME. pigge, which first meant 
the young swine; swine is common Teut.. 
originally sowine, the adjective from sow, 
AS. sugu, L. sus. The beef is from OFr. 
beuf (F"r. boeuf) from L. feoj, fcoz/^ — ; 
from earlier Sansk. go, this is cognate 
with AS. CM, whence Eng. cow, q.v. And 
mutton is from Fr. mouton, but of Celtic 

From the most famous French farce, 
Maitrc Pierre Pathelin (printed in Lyons 
in 1485, but probably written by one of 
the law-clerks (Basoche) of Paris, comes 
an expression that has become proverbial : 
revenons a nos mouions; let's get back 
to our muttons. A tailor has brought to 
the bar his dishonest shepherd, who has 
retained a lawyer that has defrauded the 
tailor of a suit; seeing the lawryer so con- 
fuses the tailor that he talks now of the 
stolen sheep, now of the stolen suit, until 
the judge (after crying endlessly Reve- 
nons a nos moutons!) finally bids the 
shepherd begone, and never appear before 
him again. The lawyer has told the shep- 
herd that, to all the tailor's accusations, 
he should say just "Baa! Baa!" — intend- 
ing to plead that the man, through asso- 
ciation with the sheep, had become as in- 
nocent as they. Now, the lawyer asks the 
shepherd for his fee ; the shepherd re- 
sponds "Baa! Baa!" . . . Let's get back 
to our muttons. 


See amuse, breach; cp. remorse. 

See myrmidon. 


The Gr. Myrmidones were the inhabi- 
tants of Thessaly, who followed Achilles 


to the Trojan War (Iliad, 11, 684). 
From their faithful obedience comes the 
sense of tnyrmidon as 'one that carries 
out any order, without scruples. Ovid 
suggests that the word is related to Gr. 
myrmax, ant; possibly it is also con- 
nected with Gr. myrias, myriad — , whence 
Etig. myriad, from Gr. myrioi, countless, 
ten tliousand. That the same word should 
mean 'countless' and 'ten thousand' to 
the ancients should not astonish us, who 
speak of the countless stars we see at 
night, wiien all the naked eye can be- 
hold on the clearest night is just over 
one thousand stars. 


There is a three- fold mixture, but 
not a mystery, in the history of this 
word. The mystery play that brings the 
detective with all his sleuthing skill is 
from Gr. mysterion, a secret religious 
ceremony, from myein, to close (lips 
and eyes), to initiate. The medieval 
mystery play, dealing with the life of 
Jesus, and performed at first by the 
minor clergy, is from L. miftisterium, 
the churchly Office. Later it was acted 
by the apprentices of the guilds, the 
mysteries, as they were also called, be- 
cause one sought mastery in them. "Ev- 
ery manuary trade is called a mystery." 
This third mystery, mingling with the 
second, is from L. magisterium. The 
shift from a to % is also seen in mister, 
from master; mistress, from mai{s)- 
tresse ; mistral, from maestral, the mas- 
ter {Wmd). Thus magister, from L. ma- 
gis, more, and minister, from L. minus, 
iess, combine in mystery. Cp. month: 

myxo—, myxoma. 
See ache. 




See knick-knack. 


See carnelian. 

See azimuth. 

nag, nail. 

See pylorus. 


See cloth. 


See neighbor. 


Sometimes words get lost ; perhaps 
this one found it had nothing on, and 
slipped away! The basic verb is gone; 
but tlie past participle remains in AS. 
nacod; Du. naakt ; G. nackt; Goth, na- 
gaths ; Russ. nagoi; OFr. nocht; L. nu- 
dus; Sansk. nagua. From the L., also 


See niminy-piminy. 

See cloth. 


See knick-knack. 

nape, napery, napkin. 
See auction ; cp. knick-knack. 

narcissism, narcissus, narcotic 

See nuptials. 


See nasturtium. 


Taste the leaves of this flower, and 
you will understand the name. For it 

is from L. tiasus, nose (AS. nosu, nasu, 
from L. nasus, from Sansk. nasa, nos- 
trils. Nostrils are nose-thrills, nose- 
drills. Hence also nasal, from L. nasa- 
lis, of the nose) + tortium, twist. Cp. 

Colwnbine is the diminutive of L. co- 
lumba, a dove. See also nuptials. The 
flower pink is not named from the col- 
or; but the color from the flower. To 
pink is to prick (as in sewing or fenc- 
ing), to cut in at the edges, from Fr. 
piqiier, whence Eng. pick, from AS. py- 
can, from L. picus, woodpecker: thus 
pick, peck, and pink are triplets. The 
flower is named from its cut-in petals. 
Pink also means the tip or point made 
by cutting ; hence, the peak, as in the 
pink of perfection. But see pink. 


From L. nasci, not — , to be born (cp. 
neighbor) , nation first meant a group of 
persons born together. The element of 
race was prominent in early uses of the 
word ; more recently, the political tie has 
been stronger. 


See neighbor. 


See element : nitrogen. 


From Fr. nature from L. natura. future 
form of L. nasci, nat — , to be born {cp. 
neighbor), nature first meant birth; then 
the character inherent in a person, his 
basic qualities. By extension, the basic 
qualities of anything — those that must be 
allowed for, as fundamental, perhaps 
unchangeable, as, an artist must know the 
nature of his materials : similarly, it's 
human nature! All these meanings had 
been acquired by the word in Latin ; from 
the sense of a basic, pervasive quality, 
came the extension to nature as "the limit 
set to man" ; hence, nature as the physical 




aspect of the universe, and all the natural 
beauties of the field and sea and sky. 


S(e nausea. 


We have extended the meaning of 
this word, but it is very old, from Gr. 
nausia, from Gr. naus, ship, being first 
limited to sea sickness. From Gr. naus, 
naut — , we also have nautical (though 
of course not naughty, which means just 
worth naught, nothing, from . ne, not + 
aught, anything. Aught is from o. one 
+ zvhit, created thing, a doublet of 
wight, creature), and nautilus, a shell-fish 
supposed to swim as with a sail. The 
L. form, naus, whence navis, gives us 
navy, navigate, naval, and the rest. The 
nave of a church, from LL. navem, is 
from the frequent comparison of church 
and ship. The root is na, from earlier 
sna, from Sansk. sna, to bathe ; snu, to 
flow. Perhaps snake is from this source ; 
thus Sansk. nag, snake {Kala Nag, 
Black Snake, in Kipling's Moti Guj, 
Mutineer, and in other stories). 

Church nave, however, is influenced 
by nave, the center or hub of a wheel, 
with its diminutive, navel or center of 
the body. This is a common Teut. word, 
AS. nafu, nafa, from Sansk. nabhi, na- 
vel, center, from nabh, to burst (the 
navel in earliest infancy is a projection, 
or 'bursting.' Similarily burst, an old 
Teut. word : AS. berstan, Icel. bresta — 
from the stem brast, intensive of brak, 
whence Eng. break — is related to AS. 
breast, Eng. breast. Chaucer uses bres- 
ten, to burst.). 

Travel by air has recently, by analogy 
with navigation, been called avigation, 
from L. avis, bird; pilots are bird men. 

nautical, nautilus, naval, nave, navel, 
navigate, navy. 

See nausea. 


See Dora. 


See States. 

nebular, nebulous. 

See cloud. 


No spiritualist would accept this word 
as describing her activity; yet the black 
art, and black magic, are terms that sug- 

gest themselves — and suggested the LL. 
nigromancy, from negro, black, -^- mantia, 
divination — for what is really from Gr. 
necros, a dead person, -\- manteia, divina- 
tion, whence mantis, seer ; mania, divine 
frenzy. Thus a necropolis, city of the 
dead {cp. police), is a formal word for 
a cemetery. Cemetery itself is a euphe- 
mism : he has gone to his last rest, f rorn 
Gr. koimeterion, dormitory, from koi- 
man, to put to sleep. The mantis (in- 
sect) is so named because its front legs 
seem to be arms joined in prayer. And 
necromancy is divination by raising the 

The popularity of divination may be 
suggested by a partial list of- its .varie- 
ties: theomancy, by oracles (god); 
bibliomancy, by the Bible; psychomancy, 
by spirits (the soul), cristallomantia, by 
images ; sciomancy, by shadows ; aero- 
mancy, by shapes in the air; chaomancy, 
by clouds ; meteoromancy, by meteors ; 
austromanty; by the winds; hieromancy, 
by the entrails of sacrificed animals; 
anthropomancy, by human entrails ; ich- 
thyomancy, by fishes; pyromancy, by 
fire (ashes) ; sideromancy, by hot metd 
(Gr. sideros, iron; not L. sidus, sider — , 
star), capnomancy, by altar smoke; my- 
omancy, by mice ; ornithomancy , by 
flight of birds; alectromancy, by a cock 
picking up grains ; boianomancy, by 
herbs ; hydromancy, by water ; pego- 
inancy,hy fountains; rhabdomancy, by a 
wand ; crithomancy, by cake dough ; aleu- 
romancy, by meal ; halomancy, by salt 
(Gr. kills, halo — , salt, whence halogen, 
salt-producing; cp. racy); cleromancy, 
by dice; belotnancy, by arrows; axino- 
niancy, by a balanced axe; coscinomancy, 
by a sieve; dactyliomancy, by a sus- 
pended ring; geomancy, by random dots 
on paper; lithomancy, by precious stones ; 
pessomancy, by tossed pebbles; psepho- 
mancy, by pebbles drawn from a heap; 
cataptromancy, by mirrcrrs ; tephramancy, 
by writing in ashes; foliomancy, by 
reading tea-leaves (L. folium, leaf, 
whence foliage, folio); oneiromancy, hy 
dreams (Gr. oneiros, a dream) ; chiro- 
mancy, by reading the hand ; onycho- 
mancy, by nails reflecting the sun; dac- 
tylomancy, by finger rings (Gr. dflcty- 
los, finger); arithmancy, by numbers; 
stichomancy, by passages in books (L. 
sortes Virgilianae, the fate according to 
Virgil ; luming at random to a page, as 
of the Aeneid, or putting down a finger 
at random) ; onomancy, by the letters 
of one's name ; gastromancy, with ven- 



Iriloquism (Gr. gastor, belly, whence 
gastric; L. ventri — , htWy ^ loqiii, to 
talk; loquacious); gyromancy, by spin- 
ning in a circle ; ceromancy, by drops 
of molten wax. 


.S"^^ ambrosia, necromancy. 

nectar, nectarine. 

See ambrosia. 

needle's eye. 

.S>^ Prometheus. 


When something is bej'ond words, it 
may be good, or bad, beyond our power 
of description. The odds are two to one 
on the bad. Ineffable is from L. inef- 
fabilis, from in, not + ef, from ex, out 
+ fari, to speak. This, of something 
good. But from the same source fas, 
far — , something spoken, came to be 
used of the oracles, hence divinely spok- 
en, hence right ; L. nefas was therefore 
wrong. Nefarious means, full of what 
should not be spoken, from nefariosus, 
from ne, not + fo^h to speak + osus, 
full of. The third word is the good old 
Eng. unspeakable, q.v. (There is also 
unutterable, q.v., but this is usually re- 
served for technical situations, without 
moral concern ; it is therefore neutral 
in the odds above.) See infantry. 


See runagate. 

neglect, negligent. 

See sacrifice. 


See scholar. 


The man next door, in the old days, 
was a farmer : neighbor, from neahge- 
bur, nigh boor. Boor was a farmer; by 
contrast with polished city ways (thus 
urbanity, from L. urbaniis, from urbs, 
city ; also rusticity, from rusticus, from 
rus, rur — , country, whence Eng. rural, 
rusticate; savage, from Fr. sauvage, 
from L. silvaticus, from silva, the forest, 
the wilds, whence Eng. sylvan; Pennsyl- 
vania, Penn's woods. And naive is a 
doublet of native, from Fr. naif, naive, 
from L. nativus, from nasci, nat — , to 
be born, Eng. natal — whence also the 
provincialism of the natives of a large 
city.) it became a term of scorn. The 


.same word in Dutch is Boer, whence 
the Boer War. Note, however, that bond 
also originally meant a farmer, a free- 
holder (AS. bonda, ON. bondi, from 
buatidi, from fciia, to dwell, to till, whence 
G. Bauer, peasant. This became tangled 
with the word bond, from band, derived 
from bind (AS. binden, a common Tcut. 
word) and changed the meaning of 
bondman, bondage. From this binden 
comes the Du. bond, a confederation (as 
in South Africa) and the German 5 und. 
Churlish is from churl, from OE. ceorl, 
also carl, meaning first a man of the 
common people. The fashioners of our 
words were not all democrats ! 

From tiie Du. and G. Bauer, farmer, 
came Du. bouerij, farm, whence our 
bouerie, Boivery. The Bowery in New 
City (as in the song: "I'll never go 
there any more!") was first a farm, 
then a farm road. These words are re- 
lated to Eng. bower, from OE. bur, 
from Aryan bhurom, dwelling, from 
Aryan bhur. to dwell. The Eng. word, 
dropping out of general use, became 
poetic; thence was used of a dwelling 
amid the trees, an arbour. This arbour 
(though also spelled arbor, and changed 
as though it were that word) is not 
directly related to Eng. arbor as in Ar- 
bor Day, from Fr. arbre, tree, from L. 
arbor — the spelling changed back as 
though directly from the Latin. Arbour 
was earlier erber and herber, from L. 
herba, dried plant, whence Eng. herb. 
Arbour first meant an herb garden, often 
growTi under trees, it came then to refer 
to the trees and, possibly influenced by 
harbour, a bowery retreat. This bowery 
is from Eng. bower, not G. Bauer, above) . 


The Greeks not only had a word for 
it; they usually had a god. Nemesis 
was the goddess of vengenance; origin- 
ally, however, she meted out rewards as 
well as punishments. Humans being what 
they are, most deserved the sterner por- 
tion. Her name (like those of many of 
the olden gods) simply makes a person 
out of the idea: Gr. nemesis, just fate, 
from nemein, to measure what is due. 


See element. 

See neophyte. 


See element. 




The use of neophyte in the Douai trans- 
lation of the New Testament (1582) 
roused considerable protest at the time ; 
the word did not become widely used until 
the past century. It is, however, found 
in the Gr. version of the Bible (I 
Timothy, iii, 6) as Gr. neophytos (in the 
King James Version, translated as nov- 
ice). The word is, literally, newly plant- 
ed, from Gr. neos, new, -{■ phytenein, to 
plant ; phyton, a plant. Eng. neo — is a 
frequent prefix, as in neologism, a new 
word, or the habit of using new ex- 
pressions ; neoplatonism, etc. Eng. phyt — 
and phyto — are even more frequent com- 
bining forms, in scientific relation to 
plants. Neophyte, of course, is figuratively 
used; first, one newly planted in the 
garden of the Lord ; then, any beginner. 


See respite. 

See simony. 


This word, in exactly the same form, is 
found in several Teut. tongues. The L. 
cognate is nidus, which is used in Eng. 
also as a scientific term; nidification is 
nest-building; earlier Eng. nidary ( — ary 
from L. — arium as in aquarium, etc. ) was 
a place for nesting. The Sansk. word was 
nidd, from nizd; for the word is formed 
from just what the birds do in it: m — , 
down -j- sed, to sit. The root ni — is 
also common Teut., OHG. nideri; whence 
OE. nithcra; whence Eng. nether as in 
the nether millstone. The root sed — is cog- 
nate with the common Teut. form, G. 
sitzen; AS. sittan; whence Eng. sit; cp. 
strategy; but it appears directly in L. 
scdcre, whence sedentary ; cp. subsidy. 

.\ nest-box is one with a series of 
others inside, each fitting into the one 
larger as in a nest. A nest-egg was, first, 
a real or imitation egg left in the nest 
to stimulate laying; then, an amount left 
in the bank to gather more around it, or 
as a fund "for a rainy day." 

nest-egg, nether. 

See nest. 

See nostalgia. 

neuter, neutral. 
See marshal. 

See sierra, States. 


New Hampshire New Jersey, New 
Mexico, New York. 

See States. 

See auction. 


This is directly from the L. twxus, 
knot from neitcrc, nex — , to bind. To 
bind tilings together is to connect them ; 
connexion was long preferred, and is still 
alternative, to connection. To bind some- 
thing to another is \.o annex it; whence 
also annexation. Not to be confused with 
these is L. ncx, necis, slaughter; with the 
intensive prefix per, through, thorough, 
this produced L. pcrnicies, destruction ; 
and its adjective, perniciosns, gives us 
Ping, pernicious. The word is related to 
Gr. nekros, corpse (L. necare, to kill), 
whence necromancy, q.v., cp. ambrosia. 


See browse, knick-knack. 


See snob. Nib of a pen was earlier 
neb, from AS. nebb, beak. The word is 
cognate with snip, a small piece, nib; 
and snap, as one does with a beak ; cp. 

This word first meant ignorant (OFr. 
nice, from L. nescius, ignorant, from 
nescire, from ne, not 4" scire, to know. 
The present participle, sciens, knowing, 
gives Eng. science, etc.). It has been 
suggested that the change in meaning is 
due to confusion with ME. nesh, deli- 
cate. But there is a natural psycholog- 
ical growth. A silent person might be 
ignorant, but might be shy; thus the 
word had both implications, came (as 
applied to females) to mean coy, re- 
luctant, slow to show pleasure — then 
hard to please, exacting. From this came 
the sense of discriminating, able to 
judge delicately, to make nice distinc- 
tions. A person possessing this quality 
was a nice person ; you liked her ; hence 
the word was extended to include any 
pleasing, agreeable thing. Cp. dainty. 

niche, nick. 
See knick-knack. 


Goblins, gnomes, elves, and pixies 
were thanked for small favors and 
blamed for mishaps. Thus when the 



miners found a shiny metal, they thought 
they were lucky; but when they were 
told it contained no copper, they blamed 
it on. one of tlie most busy goblins, 
Nicholas, and called it nickel. As once 
its chief constituent, it became the name 
of the coin, U.S. half a dime. It is an 
abbreviation of G. Kupfernickel, copper- 
nickel; Nickel, from Niklaus, whence 
Nicholas. He appears in happier gui^ 
as Saiht Nicholas, Santa Claus ; cp. 
Blitzkrieg. Dime is more prosaically 
from L. decima (pars), a tenth part ; 
cp. dollar. See element. 

See auction. 


We remember tobacco's coming to 
Europe through the story of Sir Walter 
Raleigh's servant, who saw Sir Walter 
smoking and doused him with a pail of 
water. The French memory is more po- 
tent ; for the word nicotine comes from 
Jacques Nicot, who in 1560 introduced 
tobacco into Prance. Even the plant it- 
self is named from him ; it belongs to 
the species Nicotiana. The word tobac- 
co is Sp. tabaco, large tube, the name 
the Spanish gave to the tube (pipe) 
through which the Indians smoked, or 
to the roll of tobacco leaves, Uke a large 
cigar — the name of the receptacle ap- 
plied to what it holds. It may, how- 
ever, be a native Brazilian word. Cigar, 
seyar, is from Sp. cigarro; the Fr. di- 
minutive is cigarette; the words are not 
American Indian, but their origin is un- 
known. It is suggested tiiat the word 
is taken from cigarro, grasshopper, from 
the shape of the body. 

nidification, nidus. 

See nest. 

See neighbor. 

See week. 

See marshal. 

nihilist, nil. 
See annihilate. 


See cloud. 



This reduplication (cp. scurry, patter) 
imitates a somewhat more affected state 
than nafnby-pamby. The latter was coin- 
ed by Henry Carey from Ambrose 
Philips, who wrote some feeble verses, 
about 1700, "to all ages and characters." 
Pope, in The Guardian, sheds some of 
his neatest irony on Piiilips. 


Tlie suggestion tliat lliis word is a 
sliorlcniiig, then corruption, of L. non 
compos mentis, with one's mind not com- 
posed, is probably mislcadinj^. An earlier 
form of the word was nickumpoop ; this 
suggests a first part from the name 
Nicodemus (like tomfool), and a second 
part perhaps related to Du. poep, fool, 
whence Eng. slang poop, lummox. I'onp 
had already been compounded with an- 
other shortening of Nicodemus in the 
early En.t;. poopnoddy. also meaning 
fool. Nicodemus seems to have l)een a 
bit simple. 

It is also suggested that ninny, in the 
same general sense, is a shorteniiic; of 
the name Innocent — an innocent being 
often a simpleton. But Sp. niho, It. 
ninno, both mean an inexperienced child; 
and seem to be related to tlie sooiliiriK 
sound: It. uinna, a lullaby, wiience »i.»i- 
narc, to lull to sleep. Thus Gr. mutua 
and vavuas were an aunt and an uncle ; 
L. iiontia, iiunna, and uniiiiits were 
mother and father; Eng. mama, mainiiia, 
dadda, daddy. L. nonnus was used of a 
monk. Father; and from L. iitiiDia we 
have nun. It does seem, however, that 
the word cretin, an idiot, is from the 
Swiss dialect word for Christian — either 
from an individual who bore that name, 
or because to the materialist anyone 
applying the Christian doctrine in this 
world would deserve tlie name. 

See number. 

ninepins, tenpins. 

The pins here are bones, esp. leg- 
bones, which were first stood for tlie 
ball to roll at. Wood was introduced 
in the 14th c. ; there is a statute of Ed- 
ward IV of En.iiland (1332) forbidding 
"casting a bowie" (ball; but thence 
bowling) "at ninepins of wood, or nine 
shank-bones of an ox or a horse." The 
;,'ainc is a very ancient one. rivalling,' 
dice, which first was quite literally roll- 
ing of bones. We still speak of a man 
as shaky on his pins. 



In the 17th c. the name skittles came 
also to be applied ; it is still used of a 
variant of the game. Skittle is a doub- 
let of shuttle, earlier shittle, from AS. 
scytel, missile (Dan. skyttel, shuttle; 
ON. skutill, harpoon) ; related to AS. 
scetan, whence ME. scheoten, whence 
Eng. shoot. "All beer and skittles" re- 
fers to a good time without any troubles 
or grave concerns. 

See nincompoop. 

nip, nipple. 

See knick-knack. 


World War II has brought to atten- 
tion the loyalty to the U. S. of the nisei, 
first generation of American born Jap- 
anese. Their fathers, first generation to 
come to the U. S. are issei; their sons, 
sensei. Japanese sei means generation ; 
is, ni, sen are Japanese for one, two, 


See element, racy. 

nob, nod. 

See knick-knack. 

node, nodose, nodule. 
See noose. 


See anaesthetic. 

nog, noggin. 
See nugget. 


See number. 

non sequitur. 

See refrain. 


This is a word created for the nanes; 
earlier jor then ones (then replacing the 
AS. dative, than : for that once) ; this 
was divided wrongly. Thus Jonson (in 
Epicoene, or The Silent Woman, 1609) 
says "A wife is a scurvy clogdogdo." No 
one has elsewhere used that descriptive 
term. C. Hodgson, in 1861 used aladdin- 
ize, meaning to transform as by magic, 
from the story of Aladdin with the won- 
derful lamp in The Thousand and One 
Nights. Such words carbuncle the NED. 



See debate. 


See shrine. 

none, nones. 

See bull. 

See authentic. 


See luncheon. 


L. nodus, knot, has come into Eng. as 
a scientific term; its diminutive L. nodu- 
lus has given us Eng. nodule, also in 
scientific use ; more generally used in 
Eng. node, knot. There are also nodose 
and nodosity. But via. Prov. and OFr. 
nous came Eng. noose, sometimes called 
running noose; cp. lasso. It's a knotty 
field; cp. knot. 


L. norma was a carpenter's square ; 
hence, pattern, rule. There is a southern 
constellation. Norma, the Rule. With the 
sense of rule or standard already ac- 
quired in Latin, it came into Eng. as 
norm; from this, a large number of 
words have grown : normal, nortnality 
(also, abnormality; L. ab, away from) ; 
normalcy ("America's present need is 
not heroics but healing ; not nostrums but 
normalcy" — many think the form was 
coined in this speech by Warren G. Hard- 
ing, while campaigning for the Presi- 
dency of the United States, in 1920; but 
the word was used at least as early as 
1857 ; the NED records also, in the 
year of my birth, a remark about "the 
mathematical normalcy of the female 
mind"). A Normal School is one, not 
that conforms to the standard, but that 
teaches the norms or rules of teaching. 

normal, normalcy, normality. 

Sec norm. 


See east. 

North Carolina, North Dakota. 

Sec States. 


There are two constant and opposing 
cries. One the poet has phrased : 

I want to take the next train out, 
No matter where it's going. 




The other is as directly put in the 
words of any child : "I wanna go 
home!" Nostalgia is a literal transla- 
tion of the latter feeling. It is from 
Gr. nostos, return home, + algos, pain 
(as also in neuralgia, nerve pain, etc.). 
Odysseus was an early sufferer. 


Nature has drilled two passages up 
our nose : nostril, from AS. nose thrill : 
thirl, narrow passage, Du. drillen, to 
pierce, to bore. It is by a pun on bore 
(torment) that the word came to be ap- 
plied to the exercise of soldiers when 
they drill. All drills turn round and 
round, to bore. 


Indian medicine men of the United 
States are in an old tradition ; during 
the middle ages, vendors of panaceas 
and indulgences (bodily or spiritual 
cure-alls) often had acrobats and pup- 
peteers to draw the crowd. But each 
held exclusive possession of the potent 
remedy; it was (with the editorial we!) 
ours : not known to anybody else. Hence, 
Eng. nostrum, from L. noster, nostra, 
nostrum, ours. 

See knick-knack, 

See focus. 

See tribulation. 

See month. 


See nuisance. 


See nuptials. 

See plant. 

gives us nog, a drink, as now in egg- 
nogg. But we also find nugget spelled 
nigget and niggot {e.g., in North's trans- 
lation of Plutarch's Lives) ; which gives 
rise to the suggestion that via ningot 
{an ingot) it is from ingot. This was 
simply a metal poured in, from in -j- 
AS. geotan, to pour. (Just as .ningot 
has stolen the n from an; cp. auction, 
so the Fr. word came from the Eng. 
but added the / of le, whence lingot.) 


This word, though still a pest, has lost 
considerable force. It was L. necare, 
necat — , to kill ; Eng. necation is a nonce- 
word for killing. This became LL. nocere. 
ftox — , to harm ; L. noxa, harm ; whence 
Eng. noxious, obnoxious, also innocuous. 
From the present participle, nocens, no- 
cent — , comes the harmless innocent. From 
LL. nocere came OFr. nuire, nuis — , 
which has given us the noun Eng. nuis- 
ance. Cp. nexus. 

Note that both in spelling and in 
derivation innocuous is not related to inoc- 
ulate, which is from L. inocularc. inocu- 
lat — , to implant, from in, into + oculus, 
eye — then, from its appearance like an 
eye, bud. This meant first to insert a 
bud into a plant, in grafting ; then it was 
used in medicine, of implanting the "bud" 
— germ or virus — of a disease so as to 
produce a mild case and thus render the 
patient immune. 


See anniversary, 


This word is via Fr. nombre from L, 
numcrus; L. numcrare, 'numeral — , to 
count ; whence Eng. enumerate, to count 
out. The adjective gives us numeral; 
numerical; numerous. The root of L. 
numcrus is in Gr. nemein, to give out 
for use ; whence Gr. nomas, first a divi- 
sion, then things grown into use. then 
law, as in Eng. nomocracy {cp. democ- 
racy). Gr. nomisma was a counter, a coin 
in use ; hence Eng. numismatics. 


See naked. 


Odd how words sometimes journey 
round ! Nugget is probably diminutive 
of early nug, lump, a variant of nog, 
peg, stump. But this nog gives us nog- 
gin, a 3.. .all drinking cup ; and applying 
the name of the vessel to the contents 

This is common Teut., AS an, which 
gives us a, an and one ; also once. 


This is from AS. twa; formerly 
AS. twain (the masculine) was used. In 
combinations it is twi — ; also in tivicc. 

This is widespread Aryan, AS. thri; 




L. tres, tria; Gr. treis, tria; Sansk. tri. 
Hence also thrice. 

This is also Aryan, AS. jeower; L. 
quattuor; Sansk. catur. The u is dropped 
in fortnight (fourteen night; cp. remnant) 
and in forty; cp. twenty. 


This is another common Aryan root. 

AS. fif; OHG. finf ; L. quinque, earlier 

pinque; Gr. pente (as in pentagon) ; 

Sansk. pancha; whence punch; cp. drink. 


This is closely from earlier forms : 
AS. siex, sex; L. sex; Gr. hex {hexa- 
gon) ; Sansk. shash. 


Here again the word is found in all 
Aryan: AS. seofan; L. septetn; Gr. hepta 
(heptagon) ; Sansk. sapta. 


The English has varied a bit more 
here, from the Aryan background: AS. 
eahta; Du. acht; L. octo; Gr. octo; 
Sansk. ashta. 

This is also Aryan; AS. nigon; L. 
novem; Gr. ennea; Sansk. nava. 


Here again is a shift from the Aryan 
background: AS. tien; L. decern; Gr. 
deka (as in the decalogue) ; Sansk. dasha. 

This is common Teut., AS. endlufen. 
The first syllable is a form cf one; the 
second is from the root of left : one left 
after ten. 

This is two left after ten ; see eleven. 


This is by metathesis from three : AS. 
thriteen; — tyne, — tene, is from ten: 
three and ten. Similarly fourteen through 


This is AS. twain, two, -\ ty, AS. 

— tig, from ten: ten two times. 


The Aryan word for 100 was hund; 
cognate with L. centum; Gr. hekaton; 
Sansk. shatam; added to this is —red, 

count ; from L. ratio, to calculate, to 
figure ; hence, to figure out, to reason ; 
whence Eng. ratio; rational; cp. rat. 


This is common Teut., AS. thusend, 
which first meant a multitude. The first 
element is probably Aryan tus, force; 
Sansk. tawas, strong, the second part 
being akin to hundred: a strong hundred. 
It was used to translate L. mille, thousand, 
which itself was probably at first indefin- 
ite, like Gr. myriad, a multitude, ten 
thousand ; cp. myrmidon. 


This is an augmentative, via Fr., 
through It. millione, from L. mille, thou- 

This was coined (L. bi — , two) in 
16th c. France, to indicate the second 
power of a million. Thus trillion, etc. on 
to goo got, q.v.; which makes quite a num- 

numeral, numerical, numerous. 

See number ; cp. supercilious. 


See number. 


See nincompoop. 


We use the plural, and so did the 
ancients, for the wedding rites : the ad- 
jective L. nuptialis is from nuptiae, 
wedding, from nubere, nupt — , to wed. 
Hence also our nubile, from L. nubilis, 
ready to wed. The L. word is cognate 
with Gr. nymphe, bride, whence the 
nymphs, the eternal brides of the 
streams and the forests — whence also, 
the Eng. scientific uses of the form 
nymph — . 

Many of the Greek demigods draw 
their names from the personification of 
the original meaning. Thus also Echo, 
e.g. : she was in love with Narcissus, 
vainly; and she pined away until only 
her voice was left : but Gr. echo means 
sound, and the story grew from the 
meaning. Hence, such compounds as 
echoism, echolalia. Narcissus, looking in 
a pool, fell in love with his own image, 
grew numb with joy, fell into the pool 
and was drowned— but by the merciful 
gods changed into a flower, the narcis- 
sus. But Gr. narkissos is from narke, 
numb— which the flower was supposed 


nur n>Tnph 

to make one; it had narcotic effects, nur, nurl. 

from Gr. narkosis, narkot — , numbness. See knick-knack. 

Thus narcotic comes from the basic 

meaning of the flower, and narcissism, 

self-love, comes from the story that nutmeg. 

grew around it. -^^^ salary. 

L. nubere, to wed, is from L. nubes, 
cloud, veil, and means thus the donning nutrition, 
of the ceremonial bridal veil, a practice £gg tribulation, 

that — though the color has changed 
from Roman saffron to Christian white 
— has continued down the ages Cp. nymph. 
bridal. See nuptials. 




Cleopatra's needle, we call the one in 
Central Park, New York : a diminutive 
figure for a colossal thrust of stone. 
But the Greeks did the very same thing, 
for Gr. obeliskos is the diminutive of 
obelos, which meant no mor^ than a 
spit for roasting meat. The word obelus 
is now used for the dagger sign (t) in 
printing. The obelisks were erected in 


See obelisk. 


See indenture. 


The Romans were as careful to avoid 
direct reference to unpleasant things as 
any other people. Thus, as we say "gone 
west," deceased, they speak of one's go- 
ing to meet (his ancestral shades): L: 
obituarius, the adjective ending, on ob, 
against, upon + »^^. *' — > to go. The 
pathway that one takes is thence one's 
itinerary, from L. iter, iiineri—, journey, 
from ire, it—. To reiterate is to go 
over something again and again, though 
here related to L. is, that -f- the adverb 
ending, — tern; whence item, and L. 
iterum, again. A remark made by a 
judge "on the way," during the course 
of another opinion, is an obiter dictum. 

object, objection, objective. 

See subject. 

See suffer. 

obligation, obligatory, oblige. 

See behold. 


This means simply to wipe off the 
letters, from L. ob, off -|- litera, littera, 
letter, from linere, lit — , to smear, since 
the letters were not carved but smeared 
on parchment. Hence, literal. The verb 
literare, literat — , to write, gives us lit- 
erati, literate, literature. Since letters 
are marked in a line, the verb linere, 
to mark, may have influenced line, which 
is directly from the thread or cord with 
which one traces a line, from L. linea, 
string, from L. linum, from Gr. linon, 
flax, whence Eng. linen. Cp. cloth. By 
way of ME. linage, from Fr. lignage, 
from L. lineaticum comes Eng. lineage. 
Lineare, lineat — , to draw, depict, gives 
us linear, and (with the noun ending) 
lineament. See oubliette. 


See oubliette. 

See agnostic. 


See nuisance, 
hence, exposed to). 

(L. ob, in the way of; 


We speak of "filth" ; so did the Ro- 
mans : L. ob, upon + caenum, mud. The 
figure and the practice persist. 


See chiaroscuro. 

obsession, obsidian, obsidionaL 
See hospital. 

See tank. 

See midwife. 

See onion. 

See tank. 




See season. 


See destroy. 


See vacuum. 


This is what meets you on the way, 
from L. ohvius, from oh, against -f- via, 
way ; cp. trifle. Obviate first meant to 
meet on the way ; therefore, to clear 
out of tlie way before you reach your 
goal ; cp. prevent. See vacuum. 

occasion, Occident. 

See cheat. 


See month. 

ocular, oculist. 
See inveigle. 


The development of this word has been 
odd. It was OHG. art, point, angle. By 
the time this came to OE. as oddc, it had 
already acquired the sense of the (odd) 
point of a triangle; then, figuratively, the 
odd man in a group (of three: the one 
whose word decided). From its connec- 
tion with three, the sense was then ex- 
tended (in Eng. only) to the other num- 
bers between the even ones. 

Note that OHG. ort is not the origin 
of Eng. arts, scrap's of food ; this is from 
OE. ortys, from an earlier or, negative, 
-f- etan, to eat: the part not eaten. 

See paragraph. 


This is a most common form OE. 
aef, of, away; OHG. ab; Sansk. apa; Gr. 
apo; L. ab. It was probably eclioic in 
origin, akin to huff and the exclamation 
Hup! The emphatic form in Eng. is 
off. as in Be off! 

The word of first meant away; then it 
was used to translate L. ab, dc, ex, all 
meaning from. It was also used to trans- 
late Fr. dc, from — but this also developed 
the meaning, belonging to, as : from New 
York, of New York. The word dc became 
the common Romance preposition substi- 
tuded for the old genitive (possessive) 
case; and Eng. of followed this course. 

Huif refers to the quick in-and-out 
breathing, as when one is breathless ; 
Pouf! and puff (also echoic) indicate ex- 
pulsion of air. Thus in a huff means out 
of breath ; esp., choked with anger. Huff, 
and puff, and blow the house down ! 


See of. 

offend, offensive. 

See fence. 


See suffer. 


See defeat. 

See attack. 

See Appendix II. 


.^ee States. 

See indenture. 


This name serves as a symbol to the 
modern artist, who preaches full self- 
revelation, self -portrayal. For when Odys- 
seus tried to hide his identity from the 
Cyclops, he said that his name was No- 
Man (Gr., Odys) — thus, inevitably when 
one tries to hide part of oneself, it is 
the divine, the Zeus in him, that falls 
away, and no man indeed that is left ! 

See homo — . 

See Appendix II. 

— oid. 

See kaleidoscope. 


This word indicates that, however 
wide the sources of the oils in use to- 
day, the first source was the olive-tree. 
For oil is from AS. ele, from OFr. 
oile, from L. oleum, from Gr. elaion, 
oil, from elaia, olive-tree. 

See lotion. 


O. K. 

O. K. 

This symbol has probably more given 
sources than any other term. The fa- 
vored seems to be Choktaw Indian okeh, 
it is so. Next comes the error due to 
bad spelling : O. K. marked on boxes to 
mean All Correct; this has been attrib- 
uted to John Jacob Astor, and to Pres- 
ident Andrew Jackson. There is also 
Obadiah Kelly, the early railroad clerk, 
who initialed all parcels he accepted. 
And — to skip a dozen or more theories 
— there is the ME. word hoacky, 
horkey, the last load of a harvest. It's 
O. K. with me! 


See States. 

See world. 

Old Bailey. 

See villain. 


See young, youngster. 


When this Ersatz product (G. Ersatz 
substitute) was first introduced, in the 
mid 19th q., it was called butterine. 
From the oil (L. oleum, oil, q.v.) and 
the beady drops in the heating process 
(L, margarine, little pearl), about 1875 
the manufacturers developed the more 
pleasing name oleomargarine (g sonnded 
as in go and get it), which has survived. 

The word ersatz was used as a military 
term in World War I ; an Ersatzbataillon 
was a relief or replacement battalion. 
The English borrowed the word; when 
on leave in France, they might seek an 
"ersatz sweetheart." 

In 1944, the U. S. National Associa- 
tion of Margarine Manufacturers voted 
that the g is soft. 


This is really an egg pancake. L. la- 
mina, thin plate, has been taken directly 
into Eng. as a scientific term; it also 
gives us laminable, laminated, etc. Its 
diminutive was lamelle, also lamette. In 
OF"r. la lamette, the thin plate (applied 
figuratively to the whipped and fried 
egg) became I'amelette (for similar 
transfers in Eng., see auction} ; whence 
Eng. omelette. The French, enjoying the 
food, suggest that it may be from Gr. 
omelia, from oon, egg -{- meli, honey ; 
though a more prosaic eytmologist sug- 


gests Fr. oeufs melSs, scrambled eggs. 
Related to lamelle is the older amel, 
thin plate; with Fr. en (L. in), this 
gives us enamel. This in turn comes 
from (Fr. email) OFr. esmail; OG. 
smalt; Gr. meldein; L. mollis, soft 
(whence Eng. mollify) — sources of Eng. 
melt and smelt, by which we produce 

omen, ominous. 
See auction. 

See sarcophagus. 

one, once. 

See number. 


Those that have, with intended humor, 
transposed the saying "In union there is 
strength" to "In onion there is streng^" 
in all probability did not know that in 
onion there is union. With the same 
vowel change as in one, from L. unus, 
one, onion is from L. unio, union — , 
unity, from unus. The idea is that the 
many many layers make but one sphere. 
The word unio was similarly applied to 
a large pearl. The onion has been used 
as a symbol, in that, far as you may 
peel, you never reach the core. 

Scallion is the A seal on onion, from 
Ascalon, Palestine. Leek is common 
Teut., AS. leac, whence leactum, vege- 
table garden. Garlic is from AS. gar- 
leac, spear leek. 

The adjective from L. unus is unicus, 
single, whence Fr. unique, whence Eng. 
unique. The ending — ique, via the Fr., 
may be used in Eng. to suggest some- 
thing fancy, as physique is opposed to 
a physic (both from Gr. physike, adjec- 
tive, from physis, nature, from phyein, 
to produce). Technique, and technical, 
are from Gr. technikos, from techne, 
art, craft {art first meant anjrthing 
made by man as opposed to nature; 
then, the skill in its making: the L. 
ars, art — , art, is a root meaning to fit 
together). Romantic (first, like romance, 
referring to the Roman tongue, Latin; 
then to the tales told in it, or their 
spirit) struggled for a while to hold 
the language against the Fr. form ro- 
mantique. Oblique, on the other hand, 
had that ending in the Latin; obliquus, 
from ob, against + /eflf, lie — , bent. 

See alone. 




See camelian. 

opiate, opium. 
Sec remorse. 

opportune, opportunity. 

See port. 

optic, optician, optimist, option, 
See pessimist. 

oracle, oral. 
See inexorable. 

See peach. 

oration, orator, oratorio, oratory. 

See inexorable. (For oration, orison, 
cp. win.) 


The orchestra that plays dance-music 
is closest to the original meaning of the 
word (Gr. orcheisthai, to dance). In 
the primitive Greek theatre, the still 
partly religious movement of the danc- 
ing chorus was performed in a great 
circular space, called the orchestra. In 
Roman times, and later, seats were 
placed here ; hence the orchestra of the 
modem theatre. But the fore part of 
this section was reserved for the musi- 
cians ; gradually the name of the place 
was transferred to those that used it, 
and orchestra (still applied to the main 
floor of a theatre) came to mean the 
Sand of musicians, instead of those that 
dance to their tunes. 


See test. 

ordain, ordeal, order, ordinance, or- 
dinary, ordination. 

Sec augment, orient. 

ordnance, ordonnance. 

See augment. 


See States. 


In its various senses, this is via L. 
organa, from Gr. organon, an instru- 
ment, from ergon, work. The musical 
organ works (originally) with a bel- 
lows. From the source come energy; 
organization; erg. An organism is a 
group of organs functioning as a whole. 

organism, organization. 
See organ. 


The mariner turns toward the north 
star; the Mohammedan, toward Mecca. 
If we want to orient ourselves we turn 
toward the rising sun (L. oriri, to rise, 
present participle oriens, orient — ). Hence, 
the east. Related to this is L. origo, 
origin — , a beginning, whence Eng. ori- 
gin, original (the beginnine; therefore 
without earlier examples). Frequentative 
of oriri is L. ordiri, to begin, whence 
ordo, ordin — , whence Eng. order, ordina- 
tion, and (L. primus, first, whence 
prime) primordial. 


See defeat. 

origin, original. 
See orient. 

See win. 

ornament, ornate. 
See augment. 

See tavern. 

See rote. 

See paradox. 

See paradox ; cp. pedagogue. 


See odd. 


In many parts of the world (includ- 
ing Rome), on feast days little dolls, 
puppets, balls, were hung up, to swing 
in the breeze. These vvere called os- 
cilla; whence oscillare, oscillat — , to 
swing back and forth, whence Eng. os- 

This should be distinguished from the 
words from L. os, or — , mouth ; cp. in- 
exorable. Thus the frequentative verb 
form, L. o.^citare, oscitat — , to gape, 
gives us Eng. oscitant, yawning. The 
diminutive, a little mouth, is L. osculum, 
whence the verb osculare, osculat — , and 
good Eng. osculation. Pope uses oscu- 
lable as a nonce-word for a pretty girl ; 
it should occur mor«* often. 



See oscillate. 

osmium, osmosis. 

See element. 

osseous, ossify, osteopath. 

See ostracize i-ous, from L. -ostis, full 
of ; — fy, from LL. ficare, from L. fa- 
cere,. to make; — path, from Gr. path — , 
to suffer, to feel.) Gr. pathos, suffering, 
disease, gives us such words as pathos, 
pathetic, sympathetic (Gr. sym — , syn — , 
together), antipathy (L. anti — , against). 

ostensible, ostentation. 

See usher. 


See hospital. 


If those around decide to leave an un- 
popular person as lonely as an oyster 
shut in its shell, they ostracise him. In 
ancient Athens, this was done by a vote, 
marked on pieces of tile', potsherd, or 
shell (Gr. ostrakon, burnt clay, shell). 
The word is closely related to Gr. os- 
treon, oyster; and osteon, bone, which 
gives us many Eng. words : osseous, 
osteopath, ossify. It is suggested that 
the word is related to Sansk. as, to 
throw, as bones were cast aside after 


This word illustrates the hazy ideas of 
olden times, in natural history. The L. 
hydra, water-snake (Gr. hydr — , water; 
hydra is still used of a water-monster ; 
specifically, of the many-headed — hence 
Eng. hydra-headed — snake that held the 
marshes of Lerna, in Argolis; for each 
head struck 6flF, two at once were formed ; 
Hercules finally choked it to death) was 
Lith. udra; whence AS. and Eng. otter. 
The word is cognate with water; cp. 
drink, wash. 

A hybrid is from quite different source : 
L. hybrida, hibrida; from Gr. hybris, un- 
natural violence (which seemed involved 
in the production) : this first meant the 
offspring of a tame sow and wild boar; 
thence, any mixed breed. 


With the western cult of the Orien- 
tal, toward the end of the 18th c, 
came notions of eastern luxury, of 
lounging in harems, of pillowed de- 
lights. The Arab, founder of a Turk- 
ish dynasty (ca. 1300) Othtnan, was 


pictured as bringing the lavish tastes 
of the Orient into Europe, and his 
name — in the form ottoman — became 
attached to a comfortable couch. 


This delightful little dungeon, en- 
tered only through a trapdoor in the 
roof, wiience a prisoner may be tossed 
a crumb of bread, is pleasantly named 
from the noun diminutive added tc Fr. 
oublier, to forget, from LL. oblitare, 
from oblivisci, oblit — , whence Eng. 
obliterate, obliinon. For less lengthy 
and more enjoyable stays, we now call 
a place where no one can find ns a 


The famous board that gives all the 
answers is, its very name implies, a 
specialist in double-talk. It is no more 
than the effort of the spirit to make 
sure it is understood, no matter whether 
the listener he of the Teutonic or the 
Romance background. For oniin is a 
combination of Fr. oui, yes, and G. ja, 
yes : Yes, yes : in 27 languages it 
couldn't say no! 

See uncle. 

See unutterable. 


See uncouth. 


Though one may be put out by an 
outrage, it is not related to rage. The 
ending is the noun form, as in language, 
wreckage, dotage, etc., from OFr. — age, 
from L. — aticum, forming an abstract 
noun from the neuter of the adjective. 
The stem is from Fr. oute, beyond, 
from L. ultra: that which is beyond 
decency, or beyond endurance. Rage is 
from Fr. rage, from LL. rabies, mad- 
ness ; which we use as the name of a 
disease, rabies. From this the verb L. 
rabere, rabid — , to be mad, gives us 
rabid; and possibly rave, though this 
comes via Fr. rcver. to dream, whence 
also reverie. 


See pseudo — . 

When the Roman general returned 



after a victory, he was met with shouts 
and rejoicing. Ovare, ovat — , to shout, 
whence ovation. The L. ovare, from 
ouare, is from Gr. auein, to call aloud, 
an imitative word, related to Sansk. va, 
to blow. 

If the Senate was as well pleased as 
the people, it might vote the general a 
triumph. At the triumph, oxen were 
sacrificed, and roasted; at the lesser re- 
joicing, the ovation, sheep were sacri- 
ficed ; whence the suggestion that the 
word might come from L. ovis, sheep. 


See overture. 


See board. 


See overture. 


See affluent. 


Sec overture. 


This comes at the beginning, not when 
things are over. Ovqr is common- Teut., 
AS. ofer; G. ober, Uber; cognate with 
Gr. hyper, in many English words, hy- 
per — , e.g. hyperbole (Gr. ballein, to 
throw) ; L. super, also a frequent Eng. 
prefix, super — , e.g. supersede (L. se- 
der e, to sit; cp. subsidy.) Overture is 
a late noun, from overt, open, from 
OFr. ovrir, overt (Fr. ouvrir), from L. 
aperire, apert, to open, whence Eng. 
aperture. Thus aperture and overture 
are doublets. 

L. aperire was early confused with L. 
aperire, to close; whence (co, together) 
Fr. couvrir, couvert, whence Eng. cou- 
vert or cover charge at night clubs ; and 
covert, opposite of overt. L. aperire is 
probably ab, away + perire, cover ; while 
operire is ob, up + perire, cover ; the 
root perire is related to parare, to dress 
up, adorn, prepare (L. pre, before + 
parare). This gives us many Eng. 
words. In the sense of prepare for, 
hence ward off, it gives us parry, and 
through It. and Port, para — as a pre- 
fix, parasol, to ward off the sun (L. 
sul, sun, whence solar; cp. trophy) , para- 
Pet (It. petto, breast: breast-high pro- 
tection) ; rampart (earlier rempart, from 
re-en-par: to put up a defence again); 
and parachute, to ward off a fall. A 


parairoop, however, is not something 
that wards off a troop; but a troop 
that attacks from airplane* via para- 
chutes. Fr. parapluie, to ward off rain, 
has been replaced in Eng. by umbrella, 
from It. ombrella, diminutive of ombra, 
from L. umbra, shade. From the past 
participle of L. parare, parat — , ready, 
hence waiting, displayed, came (through 
Sp. parada) the sense of a show, esp. 
as of a horse held in check ; hence, 

The opposite of Gr. hyper — , over, is 
hypo — , under, whence also many Eng. 
words. Hypocrite was originally a sec- 
ondary actor, who answered back. Hy- 
pochondriac (Gr. chondros, gristle: un- 
der the cartilages) was one whose na- 
ture was influenced by the soft part of 
the body, beneath the cartilage of the 
ribs, i.e., by the liver, the seat of the 
melancholy ; cp. complexion. The oppo- 
site of L. super — , above, supra — , be- 
jond, and (through the Fr.) sur — e.g. 
surtax, is sub — , under; whence, also, 
many Eng. derivatives, e.g. submarine, 
under the sea. There are of course 
many compounds -from Eng. undef, q.v., 
e.g., undermine ; but we must not over- 


See shed. 


See yokel. 


.Vet' Bosphorus. 


See element, racy. 


This has been a favorite food from early 
times, being Gr. ostreon, L. ostrenm, pos- 
sibly related to L. os, bone ; cp. ostracize. 
Pistol says to P'alstaff, in The Garter Inn 
{Merry Wives of Windsor, II, ii 2) : 
the world's mine oyster. 
Which I with sword will open. 
Sometimes "the oyster" is used in the 
sense of prize, or thing desired ; from 
the story of the monkey, who. asked to 
judge to whom an oyster belonged, ate 
the succulency and gave each disputant a 
shell. Byron, in IDon Juan, 1819, said 
"oysters are amatory food" ; but Sheri- 
dan, in The Critic, 1779, had remarked: 
".•\n oyster may be crossed in love." Rut 
do not believe, as the children claim, 
that a noisy noise annoys an oyster! 


ozone ozone 

ozone. ^ smell, -f- —o«c. The suffix — one (Gr. one. 

The bracing air of the seashore, rich in daughter of ) is used loosely as an end- 

ozone, first had this constituent named ing for various chemicjll derivatives, e.g., 

(Fr., ozone) in 1840; from Gr. ozein, to acetone. 



See abbot. 


See pass. 


See propaganda. 

See pay. 

pacify, pact. 
See defeat, propaganda. 


See parquet. 


See pawn. 


Christianity spread more rapidly in 
the cities than in the outlying sections 
of the Roman Empire. Thus a country- 
man (L. paganus, villager, from pagus, 
district, from pangere, pegi, to fix, set : 
the country districts were marked off) 
according to Gibbons' Decline and Fall, 
was likely to be an unbeliever, a pagan. 
Similarly a heathen was first merely a 
dweller on the heath, wild open country. 
Cp. neighbor. (This story is true for 
heathen, but later research suggests a 
different story for pagan. It was used 
under the Caesars to mean a civilian, 
as opposed to the milites, the soldiers : 
The Christians called themselves "the 
soldiers of the Lord," hence all others 
were pagans). 

The city folk have by no means 
ceased scorning the country fellow, as 
the terms bumpkin, rube (from Reuben, 
a frequent farmer's name) and ninety- 
two more in The American Thesaurus 
of Slang attest. But the farmer today 
knows that the city dweller is equally 
inept in the country ; hence the dude- 
ranch for the tenderfoot and his tribe. 
Cp. police. 


See propaganda. 

See chary. 

See arsenic. 


This is three words. The animal, 
painter, is a corruption of panther, said 
to be from Gr. panther, from pan, all 
-f- tfier, animal : partaking of features 
of every beast. (Gr. ther, whence L. fer, 
wild 3a\ima\; cp. treacle.) Panther is more 
probably from Sansk. pundarika, leopard. 
The line for holding or towing a boat, 
painter, is probably ultimately from 
Sansk. pankti, line, from pac, to extend. 
But it has been traced to the first word, 
via OE. panter, noose, from OFr. pan- 
tiere, snare, from Gr. pantheros, catch- 
ing every beast. There is, finally, the 
man that paints, from Fr. peindre, peint, 
from L. pingere, pict — , whence Eng. 
picture, depict (L. de, down). Thus "the 
painter painted a painter^' might mean 
that a man that draws towed a wild 

See wig. 


This is a home such as the Caesars 
had, via Fr. palais, from L. palatium, 
from the mons Palatinus, Palatine Hill 
at Rome, where Augustus Caesar, first 
of the Emperors, erected his stately 
home. It was fenced about, for pala- 
tinus is from L. palus, stake, enclosure, 
whence Eng. pale, paling, impale. Be- 
yond the pale is outside the fence, thus 
not "one of our gang." The attendants 
of the palace were called It. paladino, 
whence Fr., whence Eng. paladins, esp. 
of the twelve peers of Charlemagne. 



The Palatine hill has no relation to 
Pallas Athene. Her statue, bearing a 
spear (Gr. pallan, to brandish), is the 
palladium, defending the city. The 
Parthenon was erected in honor of this 
virgin goddess (Gr. parthenos, virgin; 
whence Eng. parthenogenesis, virgin 
birth; cp. racy). Eng. Palladian may 
mean, pertaining to Pallas Athene, or 
of the school of architecture of the 
Italian Andrea Palladia (1518-80). 

Pole has two meanings, from separate 
sources. L. palus, whence AS. pal, 
whence pole, hence a doublet of pale. 
The north pole and the south pole, how- 
ever, are via Fr. pole, from Gr. polos, 
axis. Pale, pallid, is from L. pallere, 
pallid, to turn pale; whence also pallor, 
inappropriate to a palace. 

paladin, pale. 

See palace. 

palimpsest, palindrome. 

See dromedary. 


See palace. 


See palliate. 

See element, palace. 


The simplest disguise is a cloak (L. 
pallium, cloak, whence Eng. pall; L. 
palliare, palliatum, to cloak) over the 
*hing to be hidden. By a figure of 
speech, a cloak may be drawn over an 
offense, to palliate it. In early Eng. 
the word cloke was similarly used. 

Cloak, cloke, is from OFr. cloque, 
from LL. clocca, bell, from the bell- 
shape of the early cloak. The word 
clock is from the same origin, as the 
early "clocks" were bells. (Up to the 
4th c, church vidittr-clocks did not ring 
bells, but clashed cymbals). The LL. 
clocca is probably of Teut. origin, AS. 
clucqa; G.Glocke. The clock of a stock- 
ing is also named from its bell-shape. 
Stocking is from stick : that into which 
the foot is stuck; also, the stocks. 

pallid, pallor. 

Sec palace. 


See mail. 



The original sense is the palm of the 
hand, from L. palma, from Gr. palame: 
AS. fohn, whence Eng. fumble (influ- 
enced by an older thumble, from thumb, 
from AS. thuma; cognate with OPers. 
tuma, fat ; L. tumere, tiimiilt — , to swell, 
whence Eng. tumor, tumult). To palm 
off is from tricks of legerdemain, light- 
ness of hand. The palm tree is named 
from the shape of its fronds; palmetto 
is a little palm tree ; palmyra is from 
Port> palmeira, palm tree, not from 
Palmyra but from L. pahiia. Pahin.<;try 
is from palm -\- mystery, q.v. The Palm- 
er (one of The Four P's in Hey wood's 
interlude, ca. 1543: palmer, pardoner, 
potycary, and pedler, wiio compete to 
sec which can tell the biggest lie ; the 
Palmer wins by saying he's never seen 
an impatient woman!) is one that bears 
a /'fl/m-branch as a sign that he has 
made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 


See chichevache, palm. 

See wig. 


See palpitate. 


There are three Eng. verbs, palp, pal- 
pate, palpitate. The first two are from 
L. palpare, palpat — , to touch ; palpate is 
used of a medical examination by feeling. 
The frequentative, to touch rapidly, 
hence to move back and forth quickly, is 
L. palpitare, palpitat — , hence Eng. pal- 
pitate and palpitation of the eyelids or 
the heart. Eng. palpebra is the anatomi- 
cal term for eyelid; palpus is a zoological 
term for feeler. If it can be felt (hence, 
manifest) it is, as in Hamlet, a palpable 


While this now refers to the spirit 
as well, its first use was of the body: 
pamper meant, to stuff with food: G. 
pampett: related to L. pabulum, from 
pasci, past — , to feed, also paP; cp. ab- 
bot. The It. form is pamberato, well 
fed, which suggests the telescoping of 
pane, bread, food, and bere, drink. An- 
other suggested source for pamper is L. 
pampinus, tendril ; Milton (Paradise Lost, 
V,214) speaks of the pampered boughs 
of fruit-trees. Perhaps we may speak 
of the hot-house products as pampered 



It may, however, be the frequentative 
form of an earlier Eng. pamp, to stuff 
with food, from an earher form pimp, 
pamp, pomp, to swell. Thus a pimple is a 
little swelling, often the result of "pamp- 
ing". The pomp of a ceremony may have 
been influenced by this form, but see 
pontiff. The pump that brings water (with 
its Fr, form, pompe) is echoic of the 
sound of the plunger. 


The little brochure is stitched to- 
gether, from Fr. hrocher, to stitch ; thus 
needlework cloth {q.v.) is, via Sp. bro- 
cade, Eng brocade. It is suggested that 
pamphlet has a similar derivation : from 
Fr. par un filet, (held) by a thread. 
For tiie more likely source, see pan. 


The kitchen pan and the goat- foot god 
of the Greeks have little in common, in 
spite of Christopher Morley's quest of 
a divine dishpantheism. Pan (AS. panne; 
OliG. pfaiuia) is traced by some through 
LL. panna to L. patina, vessel — which 
may, through Fr. patine, give us Eng. 
patina, the coating on old metal. But 
by transfer from the contents to the 
container, pan may be from L. panem, 
bread. Thus pannier is a bread basket ; 
pantry, a place for storing not pans but 
bread (Fr. pain, bread). The ancient 
Roman sop (AS. sopp, bread dipped in 
liquid; cognate with sup and soup) to 
the hungry populace was free panem et 
circcnses, bread and circuses. 

We have not yet scraped the pan (nor 
eaten the pancake or the pandowdy — an 
unpretentious but delicious apple pudding 
with molasses). The oriental "chewing- 
gum", of betel leaf and nut, is Eng. pan, 
from Hindu pan, Sansk. pama, feather, 
leaf (bird or tree plume). A pandy 
(corrupted to paddy and paddywhack) is 
Scots for a blow on the hand, from L. 
pandere, to hold out, extend, whence 
Eng. expand, expansive. In botany, a 
panicle is a cluster : L. panicula, diminu- 
tive of panus, an ear of millet, related to 
panem, bread. The pancreas is from 
pan, all + krecLs, flesh : the sweetbread is 
all flesh. And panic was first an adjec- 
tive, the panic terror induced by the god 
Pan. Cp. congress. 

The god Pan, as god of nature, is 
connected with (jr. pan, pant — , all ; per- 
haps with Sansk. pavana, wind, from 
pu, to purify : the cleansing wind. This 
has given rise to many English words. 
Among them is banjo, the Negro mis- 


pronuncialion of bandore, from Pandora. 
This might have come into the Greek 
from the orient, where such instruments 
were played ; but Pandora (pan -\- dor a, 
from doron, gift) was the name of the 
first mortal woman, whom Vulcan, after 
fashioning her, brought to the other 
gods, and they gave her a box contain- 
ing all their blessings. (You remem- 
ber slic opened it incautiously, and they 
all escaped, except hope, which was snug 
at ihe bottom.) Pamphlet is another 
roundabout word from this source : pan 
~\- philus, loved by all : a popular 12th c. 
little book, Pamphihis, seu de A more, 
under its nickname, painphilet, came to 
be used for all such leaflets. . . . Such 
words as Pan-American, Pan-Germanic, 
a;e ol)vious formations. Otlier words be- 
ginning in pan are discussed separately, 

pan — , pant — , panto — . 

There are three combining forms, all 
from Gr. pas, pan, pant — , all. The first 
is most frequent in words of general use, 
pan-American, panathlctic. Pant — , before 
a vowel, and panto — , before a conson- 
ant, are used rather in scientific fields. 
Note that pantechnicon (cp. onion) was 
a 19th c. London term for a bazaar of 
general art merchandise, then a store- 
house, then (short for pantechnicon-van) 
a moving-van. Van itself is short for 
caravan; from Pers. karioan, a company 
traveling together for safety ; then, a cov- 
ered wagon. Pantopragviatic is a humor- 
ous term for a imiversal busybody. 


See pan. 


Milton in Paradise Lost, I, 756, coined 
this word for the name of the capital 
of Hell. By natural transfer, it came 
to mean fiendish noise and confusion. 
Cp. pan. 


The usual ending er, one who, has 
probably changed this word, which is 
from Gr. Pandaros, the uncle of Cres- 
sida of Troy, who acted as go-between 
for Troilus who loved her. Boccaccio 
tells the story, but it is more fully pre- 
sented by Chaucer. Hence the verb, to 
pander to one's appetites. 


See pan. 




This word is not from L. pan or Gr. 
pan (Cp. pan) but from Fr. pan, from 
L. pannum, cloth, piece of cloth; its 
diminutive, panellum, gives panel. Both 
words were applied to a bit of cloth 
stretched for various purposes, as to 
cover a window; hence, window pane. 
Both were also used of a piece of any- 
thing, in general ; hence, panel of a 
wall, also used in a coal-mine. Panel, 
used of a strip of parchment, esp. that 
on which a sheriff wrote a list of 
names, gives us the jury panel, and the 
verb to empanel, impanel, a jury. Panel, 
from its use of the piece of cloth placed 
under the saddle to keep it from chaf- 
ing, was later applied to the stuffed 
lining of the saddle, then to the saddle 
itself. The paneled wall and the window 
pane are thus both sprung ffbm cloth. 
Cp. pan. 


Speak only good of a man, in public. 
If }Ou must, speak ill of him in private. 
(Too many interpret this as meaning, 
behind his back; its proper sense is, to 
him alone and for his betterment.) But 
the public practice of praise is perpetu- 
ated in the panegyric, which merely 
means a speech before the whole as- 
sembly : from Gr. panegyris, general as- 
sembly, from pan, all -|- agora, assembly. 


See pane. 


The vague fear of things unknown 
was by the Greeks attributed to Pan, 
q.v. Even on Wall Street, rumors and 
rush are the first signs of a panic. 


In 1755 a man named Macklin claimed 
he could repeat anything, after hearing 
it once. Samuel Foote at once rattled 
off : "And there were present the Pic- 
ninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Gary- 
ulies, and the Grand Panjandrum him- 
self, with the little round button at top." 
History does not record whether it was 
successfully repeated ; but the word Pan- 
jandrum was repeated again and again, 
as the mock title of a man who deems 
himself the embodiment of all excellen- 
cies. Cp. pan. 

See pan. 



Mainly used today in a figurative 
sense, meaning full display of resplen- 
dent garb, panoply first meant in full 
armor (Gr. pan -j- hoptites, from hoplite, 
foot-soldier, from hopla, arms). Cp. 


The flower (also earlier spelled pen- 
sy, pensee) is from Fr. pensee, thought, 
(from Fr. penser, from L. pensare, to 
think, frequentative of L. pendere, to 
weigh. See aggravate.). Ophelia (in 
Hamlet, IV, v) says: "There is pansies, 
that's for thoughts." 


Did you ever awake from a night- 
mare, your eyes popping through the 
dark, your heart pumping wildly, your 
breath heaving in quick pantsf Lucky, 
if not; but if so, you can appreciate 
that pant, to breathe heavily, is from 
Fr. pantoisier, from LL. phantasiare, to 
be oppressed with nightmare, from Gr. 
phantasia, nightmare; cp. focus. Coler- 
idge, in Kubla Khan, says : 

And from this chasm, with cease- 
less turmoil seething, 
As if this earth in fast thick pants 

were breathing, 
A mighty fountain momently was 
forced. See pants. 


See pants. 

See pam — . 


See painter. 

See pan — . 


See pan. 


This is an abbreviation of pantaloons 
(the diminutive of which is pantalettes). 
Pantaloons are part of the costume worn 
by the pantaloon (It. pantalone, from 
San Pantaleone, a favorite saint of the 
Venetians ; the saint's name is from Gr. 
panta, all -(- leone, lion) in the medieval 
Italian mask, or commedia dell' arte. He 
was an old man, butt of the clown's 
jokes; hence, a pantaloon is linked by 
some with the slang honey: "Who's 



honey now?" and lunatic — though these 
are from L. Inna, the moon : moon-struck. 
Another diminutive of pants gives us 
{>aiitics: by imitation of this, the still 
more diminutive scanties. 

papa, papacy, papal. 

-S'lV abbot. 


See bible. 


See abbot. 

See gossip ; zipper. 

para, para-. 

This is three words, and at least 
three prefixes. Cp. periscope. 

There is a para, a small Turkish coin, 
worth perhaps one tenth of a cent. Para 
is also a small weight in North Borneo; 
a measure of capacit)' in India. And, 
from the name of a port on the Ama- 
zon in Brazil, we have para rubber, and 
the para nut (Brazil nut). 

As a prefix, para — is Gr., outside of, 
beyond, beside. It appears in parallel (Gr. 
allelos, one another) ; parafioia (Gr. 
noos, nous, mind) ; and hundreds of sci- 
entific terms. Through It. and Port. 
para — implies protection against, as in 
parasol; see overture. OFr. par — , by, 
tlirough, gives us paramour (amour, 
love) ; paramount (OFr. amoiit, above, 
from L. ad monten, to the mount). 

Still another source hides in paraffin. 
This word was coined in 1830, by the 
chemist Reichenback, from L. parum, 
barely -f- af finis, having affinity (whence 
Eng. affinity, from ad, to 4* finis, end : 
i.e., adjoining), because its various types 
had little chemical affinity, i.e., they re- 
sist forming compounds. (For finite, 
etc., see finance.) 

parable, parabola. 
See parlor. 

parachute, parade. 

See overture. 


The lost paradise was a garden, out 
of which (Gr. para, beyond, beside ; 
also, via Port, against; cp. overture) 
the first of all humans were driven. 
This has affected the spelling; but the 
word comes through the Greek, from 
OPers. pairidaesa, from pairi, around 


(Gr. peri — ) -\- dez, a heap, from diz, 
to form. Hence, a wailed garden, as in 
modern Pers. firdaus, garden. The root 
di/:, to form, is akin to AS. dig, to 
knead, whence Eng. dough; cp, lady. 


A doxy was a merry wench, from 
old Du. dockc, doll. But Gr. doxa meant 
opinion. Orthodox (Gr. orthos, straight, 
right; also in or//to/'^dtV, foot-straighten- 
ing). Heterodox (Gr. heteros, other; 
also in lietcrugcneous, from fjcniis, gen- 
era, daisses, i.e., mixed) . Paradox (para — , 
contrary, beyond). Hence there was both 
pride and pun in the man that re- 
marked: "My doxy is orthodoxy." Cp. 


See para. 


A difficult thing to become — and as 
hard to trace. There are at least three 
suggestions. It may be made up of 
prepositions, from the Sp. expressions 
para con migo, in comparison with me ; 
para con el, compared to him ; etc. This 
traces it to three L. prepositions : Sp. 
para, from L. pro -\- ad (like Eng. to 
-\- ward, toivard) ; Sp. con. from L. 
cum, with. If you don't like this, you 
'may prefer the thought that it is from 
Gr. parakonan, to sharpen by rubbing, 
f ropi akone, a whetstone. My own choice 
is theatrical : paragon, from para, be- 
yond -\- agon, the dramatic conflict; c/>. 
agony. Thus the paragon is outside the 
fight, beyond compare. 


Early writing goes on without breaks 
between words or after sentences or 
paragraphs. When a break in the sense 
occurred, a mark was made under the 
first word of that line ; this was called 
a paragraph, from Gr. />arrt, beside + 
graphos, from graphein, to write. When 
the divisions were made, the term was 
transferred to the division. 

Comma and period have had the op- 
posite journey. A comma was a small 
section of a passage, from Gr. comma, 
from koptein, to cut. The longer pas- 
sage was called a period, from Gr. pe- 
riodos, from pert, around -|- odos, way: 
the course or circuit of a thought. Then 
the terms were applied to the marks 
setting off such passages. An ode, from 
Gr. ode (two syllables), from aoide, 
song, is from aeidein, to sing ; but note 



that it was sung while the Greek dra- 
matic chorus made its way acrfcss the 
stage. It usually consisted of three 
parts : the strophe (Gr. strophos, from 
strephein, to turn) as they came in, an 
independent epode as they stood, an 
antistrophe (anti, against) of the same 
meter as the strophe as they wended 
their way out. The catastrophe is the 
point in a drama (now, in life as well) 
in which the actions turn against the 
chief figure (Gr. caia, down, against: 
catapult, from cata -)- pallein, to hurl ; 
catalogue, from cata, down -f- legem, to 
read ; catarrh, from Gr. catarrein, to 
flow down) — which makes quite a para- 
graph ! 

parallel, paramount, paramour, 

See para. 


See overture. 


Eh". Samuel Johnson, walking in Lon- 
don, came upon a woman sweeping the 
street; she refused to stop so that he 
might pass. Drawing himself up, he 
roared: "Woman, thou art a paral- 
lelogram!" She was so dumbfounded 
that she stopped, and he walked on. 

It has always been my thought he was 
lucky he did not call her by the solid 
figure, a parallelepiped. She might have 
fancied she understood the last two syl- 

One line beside another forms a paral- 
lel, from Gr. parall^los, from para, be- 
side, against -|- allelos, one another. 
Add to this Gr. gramme, line, and you 
have parallelogram. The solid was 
earlier parallelepipedon; it has one 
Parallelogram, its base, on the ground; 
the ending is Gr epi, upon -j- pedon, 
ground {cp. ped-, foot). Johnson's re- 
mark to the woman knocked the ground 
from under her broom. 


In ancient times, when a woman mar- 
ried she often received, in addition to 
the dowry from her parents (which really 
she carried to her husband for marrying 
her]) certain gifts from the husband 
which were her own. These were her 
paraphernalia (LL. plural of parapher- 
nalis, from Gr. paraphermi, from para, 
beyond 4- pherna, dowry, from pherein, 
to bear, whence L. fer, cp. suffer). From 
the comon tendency of the man, how- 


ever, to treat all possessions, in the house 
as jointly owneci, i.e., as his own, the 
word came to mean just belongings. 


See periscope. 


In ancient Greece, the poor were ad- 
rnitted to the feasts after certain sacri- 
fices; a parasite (Gr. para, beside -j- 
sitos, food) came in Roman times to be 
one that flattered for his meals, "sang 
for his supper". In the animal, and 
esp. the insect world, it also means one 
that feeds upon others. When such a 
relationship is mutually beneficial, as 
among the ants that keep cows, it is 
called symbiosis (Gr. sym, syn, to- 
gether + bios, life) . 

parasol, paratroop. 

See overture. 


See periscope. 


This word is not a document by 
which one reaches a goal, despite Fr. 
perchemin, through road; the Fr. is 
from LL. pergamentum, from pergamena 
charta, sheet from Pergamum, a city of 
Mysia in Asia Minor. 


See periscope. 


What is now given to an ailing child 
was once the portion of an entire peo- 
ple. When the Greeks of the small city- 
states met, it was in the agora, market- 
place ; hence agora came to mean assem- 
bly. Most of the speeches there made 
(as still via radio today) were for the 
purpose of raising the morale of the 
people; so that the word for exhorting 
the public, Gr. paregorein, produced an 
adjective that meant comforting, sooth- 
ing: Gr. paregorikos. We have proper- 
ly applied this to a soothing syrup — 
though we are not so wise when we 
listen today ! 


In medieval Europe, a leper had to 
beat two sticks together as he walked, 
as a warning to the public that one 
diseased was approaching. The pariah 
need not beat his drum. But the word 
is from the Tamil (Indian) paraiyan. 



drummer, from parai, a large drum — 
the beating of which at festivals was 
the duty of one of the lower castes of 
Indian. Most of the servants of the 
whites came from this caste, furnishing 
the outcast, or pariah. 


See peep. 

See parquet. 

parlance, parley, parliament. 

See parlor. 


The name of a room often grew from 
its function. Thus the boudoir, q.v., is 
the pouting room. The salon was orig- 
inally the main living room, Fr. but of 
Teut. origin, from Goth, saljan, to dwell. 
A doublet is saloon, as used on ships, 
but elsewhere not for water. Parlor 
(from OFr. parlour, whence parloir) is 
the speaking room, from parler, to 
speak ; LL. parlatoriutn, conference-hall. 
But this word has wider ramifications. 
For Fr. parler is from LL. parabolare, 
to make parables, from L. parabola, 
from Gr. parabole, from paraballein, to 
throw beside, to compare. The strict 
sense of this gives us the mathematical 
parabola; the figurative, the Biblical 
parables. Hence also parley, parlance, 
and the House of Parliament, from Fr. 
parlement (LL. parliamenium) . Parole 
(first in the phrase parole d'honneur, 
word of honor) is from LL. paraula, 
from parabola; this took the place of L. 
verbum, word, in common parlance, be- 
cause of the religious use of verbum : 
"in the beginning was the word." A 
parlous deed, however, is not one talked 
about, but due to the earlier pronuncia- 
tion of perilous. Peril is from L. peri- 
culu)ii, danger; the per is the root of 
expcriri, expert — , to try out, whence 
Eng. experiment, which used often to 
involve danger. The present participle 
of this verb, experiens, experient — , 
gives us experience; the past participle 
gives us expert. Many a person in a 
parlor pretends to be expert. 

The cannon (stone-thrower) of the 
ancients was called ballista, from Gr. 
ballein, to throw. Further words from 
this source are embolism (Gr. em, from 
en, in) ; hyperbole (Gr. hyper, beyond) ; 
metabolism {Gr. metabole, change; meta, 
elsewhere, after, etc. -f ballein) ; problem 


(Gr. pro, forward: to put forward, to 
propose) ; symbol, q.v.; see emblem. 

parlous, parole. 

See parlor. 

See Dauphin. 


This was originally a small part of a 
park, then of a courtyard or a theatre, 
which had a wooden flooring ; then, the 
flooring itself. The word is a diminutive 
of Fr. pare, park : parquet. Fr. pare was 
first a preserve for wild beasts, OE. 
pearroc ; MHG. pferrich, enclosure, fence. 
From this, there is also an early Eng. 
parrock, which survives in the variant 


This bird, along with Pierrot (Fr. for 
sparrow) and the stormy petrel, takes 
its name from Peter. The first bird, be- 
cause the apostle talked a lot ; the last, 
because he walked on tlie waters. Peter 
itself is L. and Gr. for rock; whence 
the pun that founded the Catholic 
church : Jesus put his hand on Peter, 
and said "On this rock" shall I build. 
The same word is seen in petrify, to 
make into stone; and petroleum, from 
Petri — , stone -f- olctan, oil. L. pctrv.s 
and Syrian Putras suggest a connection 
with buttress; but see butt. 

To peter out was first a U. S. mining 
term. Some suggest that it is from Fr. 
peter, to pass wind, from the echoic Fr. 
pet, as 4n expression of the miners' dis- 
appointment. It seems more likely to 
spring from the fact that the vein of 
ore has petered, turned into stone. 

The domestic pet is perhaps a shorten- 
ing of Fr. petit; see pit. To be in a pet 
was earlier to take the pet, to sulk at not 
being petted; and indeed a petty person 
is likely to be pettish. (Note that the 
expression in petto is via It. from L. 
pectus, pector — , breast ; whence also Eng. 
pectoral — and has no relation to what 
goes on at petting parties.) 


See overture. 


This doublet of person, q.v., became 
limited in the 11th c. to the person in 
charge of parish concerns. Note that at 
one time person and parson were pro- 
nounced alike (as clerk and dark, etc.). 





See palace. 

Parthian (shot). 

See Pyrrhic. 


See abbot, Easter. 


In 1501, before digging up antiques 
was common, a mutilated statue was un- 
earthed in Rome (some say near the 
barbershop of one Pasquin), and re- 
erected by Cardinal Caraffa. Annually 
on St. Mark's Day, anonymous verses 
(of religious or political satire) were 
hung upon it. It was supposed by some 
to represent a Roman named Pasquin. 
At any rate, the verses were "pas- 
quined" (It. pasquinata), and each sa- 
tire was called a pasquinade. Cp. graf- 


This word has come into Eng. by two 
routes from the same root. L. passus, 
step, pace, led to Fr. pas. Eng. pass. But 
the L. passus developed the LL. verb pas- 
sare, whence Fr. passer, to pass, and the 
noun Fr. pass : partly from this Fr.* noun 
and partly from the Eng. verb, to pass 
(from the Fr. verb), came the Eng. 
noun, pass. The meanings are also inter- 

In general, the first pass meant a step 
(also, early, a section of a poem) ; in 
this sense, now obsolete, a more lasting 
variant is pace. It has survived in the 
sense of a way to go through, as in a 
narrow pass; a larger pass is a passage, 
cp. trespass. 

The second journey gave us pass in the 
sense of the act of passing, as a forward 
pass in football ; also the condition through 
which or to which a thing passes, as in 
such phrases as it came to pass; he found 
himself in a sorry pass. Hence, also, the 
quick pass of a magician, as with card 
tricks. Permission to pass has been short- 
ened until pass means the permission ; thus 
also passport and password. 

The verb pass is the basic word for 
motion from one place to another. 

There are a number of other forms 
from this source, which must not be con- 
fused with the passion flowering from L. 
Pati, pass — , to suffer. Thus Eng. im- 
passible means passive (unfeeling, or at 
least giving no signs of feeling), while 
Eng. impassable means that one cannot 
go by. Passenger is from Fr. passager, one 
going by (the n was added in ME., as 

in messenger, from message, from LL. 
form missaticum, from L. mittere. miss — , 
to send, whence also mission and missioner 
or missionary; cp. compromise ; and also 
in scavenger, from ME. scavaqer, tax- 
collector, from scavage, originally a tax 
in London on foreign merchants, from a 
Du. escauwer, related to Eng. show: the 
same man was the London street com- 
missioner). For passive, cp. exact, and 
references passim — though our word is 

Paste and pastry (earlier pasty) are of 
course not related to past (a variant of 
passed, the regular past tense of pass) ; 
but from L. pasta, from Gr. paste, pasta, 
barley porridge, from Gr. Pastos, sprin- 
kled. Paste is still used of the dough 
mixed for making pastry; it is also ap- 
plied to a mixture of flour and water 
used as an adhesive, and to similar sub- 
stances, including "diamonds" made of 

passage, passenger. 

See pass, trespass. 


See exact. 


See Easter. 

passport, password, paste. 

See pass. 


See pester; abbot. 


See Appendix II. 

pastor, pastoral. 

See congress. 


See pass. 


See pester; abbot. 

pathetic, pathology, pathos. 

See apathy, osseous. 

See exact. 

See pan. 


See slang. 




Sec pattern. 


See zipper. 

patron, patronize, patronizing. 
See pattern. 


See blatherskite. 


Pitter-patter is a double reduplicative 
form. It illustrates a fondness lor rep- 
etition, as in niminy-piminy, tittle-tattle, 
shilly-shally (from shall IF, of a hesi- 
tant person), and a host more. Cp. 
scurry. But patter itself is a frequen- 
tative form of pat, which imitates the 
sound produced by the action. 

But patter, in the sense of the sales- 
man's glib, meaningless talk, has another 
origin. It is from L. pater, short for 
pater-noster. Our Father, the first words 
of the Lord's Prayer, and is drawn 
from the rapid reciting or mumbling of 
the words, as was frequent (says the 
Rev. A. Smythe Palmer, in Folk-Ety- 
mnlogy, 1882) in "pre-Reformation 
times." Longfellow combines the two 
senses {Midnight Mass for the Dying 
Year) : 

The hooded clouds, like friars. 
Tell their beads in drops of rain. 
And patter their doleful prayers. 


The father was the model of the 
family, the tribe, as the archetypal pat- 
tern is the Father in heaven, who made 
man in his image. The word shows 
this is in its background : pattern, from L. 
patronus, support, model, from pater, 
patr-, father. Thus also the fathers of the 
citv, hence heads, the patricians. Pattern 
is thus a doublet of patron. It is well to 
Patronize worth-while things ; but don't — 
the wide failure to heed this advice devel- 
oped the sense — don't be patronizing. 


See pose. 


Did you ever start to pitch a tent on 
a windy day, only to see the canvas go 
sweeping forth from you on two sides, 
like the wings of a giant butterfly? 
Pavilion (ME. pavilon, from Fr. pavil- 
ion, from L. papilionem, butterfly) was 
originally a tent ; then, anything like a 


tent, such as a litter with a canopy, or 
a garden pleasure-house. It was also 
applied to a French gold coin of 1329, 
showing Philip VI of Valois under a 
canopy. It is now a fancy word for a 
semi-detached section of a building, as 
a hospital. 


As a security on a loan, etc., pawn 
is from Fr. pan, skirt of a gown; cp. 
pane, from L. pannum, cloth — a gar- 
ment being the most common object to 
pawn. In Teut. tongues, a d or < grew 
on at the end (Du. pand, a pledge; G. 
pfand; AS. pending, whence penny, 

Pawn in chess is a doublet of peon 
(from L. pedo, pedon—, a foot-soldier; 
cp. pedagogue), which also. through OFr. 
peonier gave us pioneer — who was orig- 
inally the foot-soldier that went ahead 
to dig mines; then, anyone that goes 
ahead of a main body. 

The flower peony is not related; its 
variant spelling paeony indicates its ori- 
gin in L. paeonia, medicinal (it being 
supposed of helpful powers), from 
Apollo Paian, god of medicine (from 
Sansk. pan, ? to praise)— whence paean, 
a hymn in honor of Apollo. See flower. 


One way of pacifying a person is to 
give him some money. To pay is pre- 
cisely to pacify, from F. payer, from 
L. pacare, to appease, from pax, pac — , 
peace, whence pacifist, etc. Cp. propa- 
ganda. But the sailors have a different 
sort of pay, as in the expression "there's 
the devil to pay"—ior the rest of that 
expression is — "and no pitchy hot." To 
pay is to cover with pitch, from OFr. 
empoier, from Fr. poix, pitch, from Sp. 
pegar, from L. picare, to pitch, from 
pix, pitch. The "devil" may have been 
a sailor term for a seam hard to caulk; 
or may have been influenced by the 
idea of tarring and feathering persoris 
not liked. Pitch, to heave, to throw, is 
not an early word, perhaps a variant 
form of pick, to peek, as it first meant to 
thrust in; pitchfork. Pick is from 
AS. Pycan, from G. picken, to puncture, 
from Fr. piquer, from It. piccare, re- 
lated to picus, woodpecker. Tar is an 
old Teut. word, AS. teru, related to 
tree, from AS. treow, Gr. drus, oak, 
from Sansk. dru, tree. This is prob- 
ably related to OFr. drui, whence druid, 
whence Eng. true. It pays to be true. 




"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge 
cold" : thus begins the old nursery 
rhyme, from AS. pise, from L. pisa, 
from Gr. pison. The OFr. peis, whence 
Fr. pois, shows the final s; but English 
persons not acquainted with the subtle- 
ties of other tongues thought that sweet 
pease was a plural, and turned pease 
soUp into pea soup. A pea-jacket is 
from Du. pye, coarse wool. 


See propaganda. 


When you look at, feel, taste, this 
delicious fruit, you can understand the 
expression "She's a peacfiV The word 
came from the east, from Fr. pec he, 
from OFr. pesche, from LL. pessica, 
from L. Persicum (pomum), the Per- 
sian apple. At first, indeed, and not 
only because of the garden of Eden, all 
fruits were apples. The Greeks had one 
general word, melon (later, citron in- 
cluded lemon and lime) ; the Romans 
had two: malum (from the Gr.) and 
pomwn (whence Fr. pomme). Anglo- 
Saxon had apple and berry. Thus 
quince in AS. was codapple, whence 
godapple; as potato is still in Fr. 
pomme de terre and in G. Erdapfel, 
earth-apple. Pineapple was originally 
what it says, the apple (cone) of the 
pine; in the 18th c, because of the ap- 
pearance, the name was transferred to 
what we now eat and drink. 

Orange has lost an initial n; cp. auc- 
tion; it is from Fr. orange, from Sp. 
naranja, from Arab, naranj, from Sansk. 
niranga; it was changed m L. from 
arangia to aurangia, the golden apple 
(L. aurum, gold) ; hence, the initial o : 
the fruit of gold. Sansk. naranga has 
been derived from naga, snake (Kipling 
uses the word, in his mongoose story) 
-|- ranga, bright color — recalling the 
dragon-guarded golden apples of the 

Banana is from Sp., supposedly from 
Guinea, but Arab, banana means a fin- 
ger : banan, the fingers and toes. Cherry 
is from ONFr. cherise, from L., from 
Gr. kerasion {melon) from Cerasus in 
Pontus — unless the place was named for 
the fruit: Gr. keras, horn (the bark is 
smooth as a horn). The s dropped, as 
from pea, q-.v. Pear is from OFr. piere, 
from L. pirum, pear. Grape is from 
Fr. grappe, bunch (grappe de raisins, 
bunch of grapes) ; raisin, which we use 


only of the dried grape, is LL. racituum, 
from racemum. Green gage (plum) is 
Sir William Gage, who encouraged its 
growth in 18th c. England. Damson is 
the plum of Damascus; cp. cloth. Quince 
is a plural of quitie, from ME. quoyne, 
from OFr. coin, from L. cotoncum, 
from cydoneum, from Gr. kydonion 
{melon), from Cydonia, in Crete. (This 
may, however, be a corruption of a Per- 
sian name for the ir\x\\., -\- melon.) Can- 
taloup is from Cantaloupo, country seat 
of the Pope, near Rome, to which the 
melon was brought from Armenia. 

Fruit is from L. frui, fruct — , to 
enjoy, whence Eng. fruition; L. frux, 
fruq — , (Eng. frugal), profit; its plural, 
frugcs, fruits. Berry is common Teut. ; 
AS. berie, ON. ber; cognate with L. 
per in juniper. Also see propaganda 
(plum) ; pommel (pomegranate) ; apri- 


See peach. 


There are several guesses as to the 
origin of this word. Perhaps most likely 
is the surmise that it is named from its 
shape: L. pirum, pear (cp. peach), be- 
coming LL. pcrum; its diminutive perula 
becoming Eng. pearl. L. perna, suggested 
under carnelian, q.v., gets its meaning of 
shell-fish from the shape of the bivalve, 
from L. pcrua, ham. .^Iso suggested is L. 
pilula, globule, diminutive of pila, ball : 
one of these forms led to Eng. pill ("al- 
ways gild the philosophic pill") ; by dis- 
similation pilula became pirula, some 
claim, whence Eng. pearl. At all events, 
the pearl comes from a bivalve. 

See hold. 


The Fr. trace their word Petit, small, 
to a Celtic root pit, pointed, small, akin 
to pic, point, whence pick, q.v., and (di- 
rectly from It.) piccolo. The Fr. petit 
was long used in Eng.; then spelled also 
petty, which form survived. The Celtic 
root, or an earlier Aryan, was also used 
in LL. petia, pecia, a bit; whence Eng. 
piece. As the word peat was applied first 
to the small pieces in which this substance 
was cut, for burning, and later to the turf 
or decomposed growth itself, this word 
is probably the origin of peat. Cp. alkali. 


See impeccable. 




See pay; nasturtium. The Peck meas- 
ure seems allied to the other sense (Fr. 
picotin, peck; picoter, to peck). It was 
first applied to oats for horses (and, 
of course, sparrows : the Eng. expres- 
sion "Keep your pecker up" is drawn 
from the tilt of the watchful bird). 

5"^^ parrot. 

peculate, peculiar, pecuniary. 

See fee. 


A modem schoolmaster may not be 
quite a slave to his pupils; but the 
first pedagogue was a slave, who led his 
young master to school (Gr. paidogogos, 
from pais, paid — , boy + agein, to lead. 
Thus a demagogue leads the people — 
sometimes astray: from Gr. demos, the 
people, whence democracy, q.v. So also 
does an agitator, from L. agere, agit — , 
to stir, to lead, from Gr. agein. A 
synagogue is a place where persons — 
now, only Jews — are led together : Gr. 
syn, together.) It. pedagogo was short- 
ened (by slang) into pedant; both these 
words show the scorn of the layman 
for those in spite of whom he learned 
(hence, Shaw's "Those that can, do; 
those that cannot, teach"). 

Confusion arises from the fact that 
the L. word for foot is pes, ped — ; Gr. 
pedon, ground Medicine uses the Gr. 
forms ; thus pediatrician and pediatry 
deal with boys (children : grammati- 
cally as well as dramatically the male 
embraces the female) ; podiatry (Gr. 
pous, pod — , foot) deals with the pedal 
extremities. Podagra (Gr. agra, trap) 
is the medical name for gout. A 
chiropodist was first one that cared for 
the hands and feet (Gr. chiro — , 
cheiro — , from cheir, hand : chiromancy, 
divination by the hand ; cp. necromancy) . 
The word chirurgeon was long an Eng. 
word, from Gr. cheirourgos, from cheir, 
hand -|- ergon, work ; via (DFr. surigien 
it was gradually replaced by its easier- 
to- pronounce doublet, surgeon. 

A fellow the soles of whose feet are 
facing yours when he is standing (some 
8,000 miles away) is at the antipodes. 
G. podion, foot in the sense of base, 
gives us (in the L. form) podium — 
from which the Philharmonic is being 
delightfully conducted as I stay away 
and write; applied (in its plural, podia) 
to the imperial seat at theatre, it be- 


came OFr. puie, balcony, whence ME. 
puwe, whence Eng. pew. 

The combinations from L. ped — are 
numerous ; e.g. pedometer, pedestrian. 
Impede (L. in -\- ped) is to catch the 
foot in something; hence, to hinder. 
L. expedire is to get the foot out 
again (of a trap) ; hence, Eng. expe- 
dite, to speed up; expedient, that which 
helps the foot along, as with our expe- 
ditionary force. A pedlar, or peddler, 
however, although a person that goes 
about on foot, traces his descent through 
the AS. ped, basket; hence, a man that 
thus carries his wares. 

The interlinkings can be carried 
further. Thus in Gr. podagra (Eng. 
podagra, gout) the agra, trap, catching, 
is related to Gr. agein, to bring, to lead, 
as in pedagogue. And Gr. pous, podos, 
foot (Gr. peza, ankle), is probably related 
to Gr. pedilon, sandal, Pedias, pediad — , 
level, flat (Gr. pedion, plane, whence 
Eng. pedion, flat surface of a crystal), 
whence Gr. pedon, oarblade and its plural 
peda, rudder. This word, through It. 
pedota, helmsman, became It. pilota and 
Eng. pilot, a guide in a different field 
from the pedagogue. 


Unless you draw from the spread of 
the roots, a family tree is more easily 
reckoned upside down. The usual lines 
for tracing ancestry are like a three- 
pronged rake, or the foot of a bird 
( Fr. pie, from pied -+- de grue, foot of 
a crane). In 15th c. England, this was 
spelled pee-de-grew, then pedegru; fi- 
nally pedigree. Proud persons own pedi- 
greed horses or dogs. Cp. pedagogue. 


See ambulance: pedagogue. 

See tmde. 


See pipe. Peep and peek, to keep 
looking, are of unknown origin, though 
they first mean to keep bobbing up, 
perhaps as a bird. Peer, to look, was 
earlier pire, changed by the influence of 
the hope, in peer, to come into view, 
aphetic for appear, from L. ap par ere; 
ch. month: April. Peer, a noble, is from 
OFr. per, from L. par, equal (among 
those at court) ; hence, a jury of one's 
peers. Hence also peerage and, from 
the Fr. form, parage, Eng. disparage. 
This meant first (L. dis, away) to 


Peeping Tom 

marry away from one's equals, out of 
one's ranks ; then,- to treat slightingly, 
as society might the intruder ; then, nat- 
urally, to vilify. Also L. par, whence 
Fr. parite, equality, whence Eng. parity 
and disparity. (Disparate is from L. dis- 
paratus, separate, from dis, away 4" /'O" 
ratus, ordered, ready ; and apparatus — 
L. a^*i, ad, to, for — that which is pre- 
pared lor a specific purpose.) Cp. 

Peeping Tom. 

See boycott. 

peer, peerage. 

See peep. 


See penguin. 


See pelt. 


See mail. 


See camouflage. Pelt may be roimd- 
about, from OFr. peau, skin, from MHG. 
pelliz, whence G. pelz, from OFr. pelice, 
a skin of fur, from L. pellicea, femi- 
nine of pelliceus, from pellis, skin. 

Pelt, to strike by throwing, is per- 
haps from LL. pultare, pulsar e, whence 
Eng. pulsation, iterative forms of L. 
pellere, pulsum, to drive, whence impel, 
impulse, and the pellet with which one 
is pelted. Cp. Bui'sa, push. 

L. pellere, puis — gives us v^ther com- 
pounds : propel, propulsive (L. pro, for- 
ward) ; repel, repulsive (L. re, back) ; 
expel (L. ex, out) ; compel (L. com as 
an intensive) ; also what beats, pulsates, 
inside us. our pulse. 

There is a quite different Eng. pulse, 
which means a pottage, also the seeds of 
leguminous plants (cp. legible). This is 
from Gr. poltos, pottage, L. puis, pult — . 
The L. plural pultes, used of an applica- 
tion to reduce swelling made with such 
seeds, was mistaken for a singular form, 
whence Eng. poultice. 


The early instrument for writing with 
ink was a feather (OE. pen, from O^r. 
Penne, from It. penna, from L. ptnna, 
feather, from pinna, wing) with the 
quill pointed and split. The word just 
naturally grew into its present use. Eng. 
pinna is the broad upper, wing-like part 


of the ear; pinnate means feather-like, 
esp. as applied to leaves. Pinnacle (L. 
pinnaculum, diminutive of pinna) was 
a small wing-like projection, above the 
tower or turret of a building ; hence, 
the top or peak of anything, the highest 
achievement. Pinion (from OFr. pig- 
tion, alternate form of pennon) is the 
end-part of the wing; then, as a verb, 
to cut this off ; hence, to cripple, to 
bind. (Similarly, to seed may mean to 
take seeds out, as with seeded raisins, 
or to put seeds in, as with seeded rye 
bread.) From the feather worn as a 
plume comes pennon, a streamer; from 
a blending of this and pendant (Fr. 
pendant, hanging, from pendre, to hang, 
from L. pendere; cp. aggravate) comes 
pennant, esp. in the U. S. a flz^g award- 
ed as an honor. 

Pencil is of quite other origin (OFr. 
pincel, whence Fr. pinceau, .from L. pe- 
mcillum, diminutive of penis, tail, whence 
Eng. penis), and referred originally to 
the small artist's brush, that resembled 
a little tail. 

Penicillium (of many sorts) is a fun- 
gus with branches like little pencils; 
from it is extracted the base of a medi- 
cine therefore called penicillin. 

penal, penalty, penance. 

See chary. 


See pen. 

See adipose, aggravate ; pen. 


See aggravate. 


Bird names travel farther than the 
birds. The albatross (q.v.) was first 
what we now call the pelican, then the 
black frigate-bird, before it was the 
white bird we now know. The black- 
headed penguin gets its name from 
Welsh pen gwyn, white head^-evidently 
by transfer from some other birdj after 
the original sense had been lost. (In 
the 16th c. it was applied to the great 
auk.) The pelican was first the wood- 
pecker, from Gr. pelekan, from pelekys, 
ax (from the strength of its beak). 
Grouse was at one time applied to a 
bustard ; the word is earlier grewys, 
from Fr. grue, from L. grus, crane. 
In aviation today, the word pelican is 
applied to a flying officer assigned 
solely to ground work. 



See pen. 


See island. 

penitent, penitentiary. 

See chary. The ending of penitentiary is 
L. — -arium, a place ; cp. cellar. 

pennant, pennon. 

See pen. 


See neighbor; States. 


See dollar ; pawn.. 


carap tree. One should not be a crab 
in a penthouse. 


This is short for penultimate, from L. 
pnenc, almost, next to, -\-ultimarc, ulti- 
mat — , to come to an end ; whence also 
Eng. ultimatttm; from L. ultimus, final, 
superlative of L. ulterior, beyond, Eng. as 
in ulterior motives. (For Eng. utmost, see 
unuticrahle.) Cp. island. 

The third syllable from the end of a 
word is the antepenult (L. ante, before; 
slang ante is an amount pledged or set 
aside before a play, as at cards ; hence, 
ante up means to pay this money.) In 
many Greek words the accent falls on the 
antepenult, e.g., Laocoon. 

pension, pensive. 

See adipose, aggravate. 


See number. 


I picture my friend enjoying the 
lireezc. hiyh in his penthouse on a tow- 
ering city apartment building, while I 
swelter in the library telling him (he 
will know when he reads this!) that 
etymologically he's just sitting in an 
appendix. Just as the appendix (L. ad, 
to + Pender e, to hang) is a little organ 
hanging onto the intestines, so the early 
houses had a roof hanging on to them, 
that thus formed a projecting shed, to 
shelter the domestic animals in bad 
weather. (Elarly churches had similar 
sloping structures; the word is influ- 
enced by Fr. pente, slope.) In the old 
days, when the and a and an were at- 
tached to their nouns {cp. oMc/ion), this 
was called thappentice; when the article 
was detached, it became pentiee, pentis. 
Just as Gr. krebs, crab, whence OHG. 
krebes, whence OFr. crevisse, ME. cre- 
vise, crevis was by popular etymology 
(being in the water) changed into cray- 
-fish, so pentis (being part of a build- 
ing) was altered into penthouse . . . 
and there my friend sits ! 

Crab is related to LG. krabben, 
to claw. Crab apple is apparently from 
Scan, scrab (? scrub, q.v.) apple; ap- 
plied esp. to its sour, puckering quality. 
A crabbed person was a figure drawn 
first from the crosswise walk of the 
crab, then from the sour fruit, whence 
also slang crabby and an old crab. 
There are also a crab nut and a crab 
oil, corrupted from the South American 

peon, peony. 

See pawn. 

pepsin, peptic. 

See dysentery. 

per — . 

See perish. 

perambulate, perambulator. 

See ambulance. 


See discuss. 


See acorn, belfry. 


See prompt. 


See anniversary. 

See defeat. 


See month : February. 


See emporium. 


See wig. 

peri — . 

See periscope. 

peril, perilous. 
See parlor. 




See paragraph. 


See Platonic. 

periphrasis, periphrastic. 

See periscope. 


The Gr. prefix peri — meant around; 
it is used in Eng. in many scientific words ; 
also in a large number of more common 
words. Thus periscope is a device for see- 
ing all around; for scope, cp. dismal. 
Periphrasis and periphrastic refer to 
roundabout speech ; but note that Gr. 
par — , para — . q.v., first meant beside, 
by extension also meant by, past, beyond; 
hence periphrasis and paraphrase, from 
Gr. phrasein, to declare ; whence also Eng. 
phrase. Also the L. per — , thoroughly, 
comes via Fr. into Eng. par — , as in par- 
boil ; pardon (from LL. perdonare, to 
give wholly, to grant, remit, from L. 
donare, donat — , to give ; whence dona- 
tion; cp. anecdote). 


The L. preposition per, used as a prefix, 
meant either through, or (as an intensive) 
through and through, thoroughly. It has 
the latter sense in perish, via Fr. perir, 
periss — , from L. perire, from per -f- f^. 
it — to go : to go completely. Perish the 
thought ! 


See wig. 


See immunity. 


See mess. Allow is a blend of two 
courses. OFr. alouer may spring either 
from L. allauder, from al, ad, to + 
laudare, to praise : or from L. allocare, 
from al, ad, to -}- locare, locat—' 
(whence Eng. locate, location), to 
place. There were thus two early Eng. 
words, one meaning to praise, thence 
to approve, to accept as valid, to admit; 
the otlier meaning to assign as one's 
riplit (to allocate), to grant. The two 
senses gradually grew together. 


See immunity. 

See nexus. 



This word as a verb occurs in Eng. 
mainly after the 16th c. Earlier it was 
an adjective, but also the form perplexed 
was used, from L. perplexus, from L. per, 
through, thoroughly, -j- plectere, plex — , 
to weave; cp. complexion. 


See pursue. 


When a fellow meets a girl, he may 
indulge in airy persiflage — or he may 
just whistle. It amounts to the same 
thing, as the language recognizes. Per- 
siflage is from Fr. persifler (per, in- 
tensive), from siffler, from L. sibilare, 
to whistle. Hence, also, sibilant. 


When we speak of someone as quite 
a personage, we do not recognize that, 
his origin was sham. L. persona was a 
character in a play ; whence the list of 
dramatis personae, characters in the 
drama. In ancient times, the great thea- 
tre spaces made it impossible to see fa- 
cial changes ; masks were therefore 
used, often with megaphonic mouth- 
pieces. The mask was a persona (from 
L. per, through -|- joware, to sound); 
then the term was used for the actor. 
Finally, just as we say "In that picture 
Claudette marries Clark Gable", identi- 
fying the character in the piece with 
the real person that enacts it, the word 
person came to be used for you and 
for Claudette. A parson, q.v., is also a 


See inspiration. 

persuade, persuasion. 

See victoria. 


See trouble. 


See wig. 


Originally this word had all the force 
of its origin, from L. per, completely, -f 
Fr. user, to use up, from LL. usarc, 
usat — , from L. utere, us — ; cp. ustiry. The 
Fr. user still means to use up, which was 
the early sense in English. The verb 
gradually lost force; to it was attached 
the figurative sense of "to go through" 



e.g., one's fortune; then, as the meaning 

lessened, to go through anything. Virtually 
the only meaning that is still in use is 
that of going through a book, perusal. 

See conversion. 


The L. superlative of bad is pessimus; 
from this the nouns pessimism and pes- 
simist were coined. Similarly, from the 
superlative of good, L. optimus, was 
fashioned optimist. 

The comparative of bad, L. peior, 
formed im, in -\- peiorare, to make 
uorsc, wlience Eng. impair. 

Optimus is related to L. ops, power, 
wealth (two possessions that often go 
together) whence Eng. opulent, from 
Sansk. apnas, property. Close in form 
is Gr. opsis, sight, whence opticas, 
whence Eng. optic, optician, etc. An 
autopsy is just a seeing for yourself 
{axit^, from auto — , self). L. optare, to 
wish, gives us optative; option; adopt 
{ad, to). If a pessimist could adopt 
opulence, it might change his views. 


This is so obviously linked with pest, 
the plague, that, of course, it means to 
plague one (from Fr. empester). Not 
so! This is another case of the sound 
changing the story . . . When animals 
were put out to pasture (from L. pas- 
cere, past — , to feed ; whence pastor; 
cp. congress), they were tied about the 
pastern (part of horse's foot from fet- 
lock to hoof), with LL. pastorium, 
whence It. pas tor a, whence pastoja, 
whence Fr. pasture, a tether. From this 
came the verb It. impastojare, whence 
Fr. empestrer, to shackle, to impede; 
thence, to annoy; from this, Eng. pester. 
A pestered person feels like a tied horse. 


See suffer. 

pet, peter out, petrel, petrify,. petro- 
5"^^ parrot. 

petticoat, pettifogger, petty. 

See peat, pit. 


See focus. 


See sarcophagus. 


See focus. 


See treacle. 

phase, phenomenon. 

See focus. 

phil— . 
See philander. 


This trifling with the affections of 
women may come from the fact that 
Philander is a lover of men, from Gr. 
philandros, from pliitos, dear, from phil- 
ein, to love, + ondr — , man. The word 
is thus a doublet of philanthrope, phi- 
lanthropist; it takes its special sense 
from the use of Philander as the name 
of a dallying lover in the medieval ro- 
mances, as in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. 
As a prefix, phil — , and philo — , make 
many Eng. words, e.g : Philadelphia 
(adelphos, brother: city of brotherly 
love) ; philology, love of words; philos- 
ophy, love of wisdom ; philtre, , a love 
potion — and in Such suffixes as Anglo- 
phile, lover of the English. Andro — 
and its twin anthropo — are also rich 
combining forms ; cp. sarcophagus. 

Certain animals, e.g. a small wallaby, 
are named philander, from having been 
first described (ca. 1700) by Philander 
de Bruyn, a Dutch naturalist. 

The word philandering gained currency 
from the frequent use of the name: 
Filandro, loved (and ruined) by Gabrina 
in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, 1516, 1532; 
Philander and Phyllis, in a 17th c. Eng. 
ballad; Philander in love with Erota, in 
John Fletcher's Laws of Candy, 1647; 
Congreve in The Way of The World, 
1700; Steele in The Tatler, 1709. The 
practice, if not the name, is still current. 

The drosophila, the fruit-fly often used 
in the study of heredity, is really the 
dew-lover : Gr. drosos, dew ; whence also, 
the scientific term drosometer, that 
measures the deposited dew. 


See tribulation. The name Philip (Gr. 
philippos) means lover of horses ; hence, 
the story of the son of Philip of Mace- 
donia, Alexander the Great, and his 
steed Bucephalus. To 'appeal from Philip 
drunk to Philip sober was supposedly 
the course taken by a woman displeased 
with the decision Philip had made in 
her case. 



See States. 


See philander. 

philter, philtre. 

See philander. (Gr. philtron, the suf- 
fix indicating the instnunent). 

See complexion. 


See flower. 

See focus. 


See affluent. 


See element, focus. 


See photosynthesis. 


See focus. 


Modern science has built many words 
from Greek and Latin roots. Thus Gr. 
phos, phot — , light {cp. focus) gives Eng. 
photo — as the beginnmg of many words 
such as photo-electric. Synthesis (Gr. put- 
ting together; thesis from Gr. tithenai, to 
put; cp- Spoonerism; for analysis, see 
psychoanalysis) is combined with it to 
name the process of chemical combination 
effected by light, esp. as plants change the 
carbon dioxide and water of the air into 
carbohydrates : photosynthesis. 

Photogenic has an odd history. It was 
used from about 1840 to about 1870, in- 
stead of photographic. Technically, it has 
been used to mean producing light : 
photo — , light, -|- genie, bearing; cp. racy. 
In recent years, Hollywood scouts have 
used the word (possibly with faraway 
memory of eugenic; eu — , well, beautiful), 
and it has come into wide favor, applied 
to someone that photographs well. 


See periscope, 
from phrasein). 

(Gr. phrasis, speech, 


Gr. phtheirein meant to destroy ; with 
Gr. zoon, animal (cp. plant) it formed 
the rare Eng. word phthisozoics, the art 


of killing harmful beasts. Gr. phthinein, 
the reflexive form, meant to waste away ; 
hence the noun Gr. phthisis,, consiunption, 
carried over directly into Eng. — unfortun- 
ately, much less rare. Note that it is pro- 
nounced fthee'sis or thai'sis. The related 
phthisic came into ME. spelled and sound- 
ed tisik; though the spelling has been 
restored to match the ancient Gr.. the 
pronounciation set in middle English is 

physic, physique. 

See onion. 


See doctor. 

phyt — , phyto— . 

See neophyte. 


See saxophone. 


See platypus. 

See peat. (It. piccolo, small.) 


See pay; nasturtium, pink. 


In Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers, 
1836-7 (when the author was but 25), 
the Chairman calls upon Mr. Blotton to 
tell whether the term 'humbug,' which 
he had applied to Mr. Pickwick, was 
to be taken in its usual sense; Mr. 
Blotton replied that he had used the 
word "in the Pickwickian sense." This 
expression has since been used to take 
the sting out of an uncomplimentary 
remark. (Dickens took many of his 
names from real persons: Pickwick is 
a village in Wilts, England. Other 
names he invented to fit the character, 
following the tradition of the morality 
play: Dotheboys Hall; Stryver.) 


See arsenic, painter. 


In most of its senses (pie, a small 
Anglo- Indian coin, is from Hindi po'i; 
pice, from Hindi paisa, one fourth of 
an anna, from Sansk. padi, quarter) 
pie comes from the bird, the magpie, 
from L. pica. (The mag is short for 
Margaret, as we speak of the Jenny 
wren.) The habits of the magpie, its 



practice of gathering up odds and ends, 
are so well known that from its L. 
name Eng. pica is the medical term 
for a perverted desire to nibble at un- 
palatable things, such as chalk. While 
far from unpalatable (when home 
cooked ... I trust you find it so, as 
well), the pie we eat is named from 
this same practice of mixing things 
together. A more logical use of the 
word is in connection with type ; pied 
type. Tlie f-'ied Piper is varicolored 
(the magpie is black and white ; but 
the term pied is used now for streaks 
of any two colors, as the red and 
yellow costume of the court fool) ; note 
that piebald has no connection with 
lost hair, but means balled (streaked) 
like a pie. 

Bald itself was also earlier balled, 
from Welsh bal, white-browed. The 
Elizabethans called a totally bald man 
a pilgarlic ■ {peeled garlic). Garlic was 
deemed a cure for leprosy, hence as- 
sociated with the disfigured. 

Piepowder court was another early 
English term, for the summary courts 
established at fairs to handle vagrants, 
pickpockets and other petty nuisances. 
It is from OFr. piepoudrous (Fr. pied 
pottdreux), dusty-foot, a term fitly 
used of the wayfarers and traveling 
salesmen of the time. Cp. humble. 


See pie. 


See peat, pit. (Piece is directly from 
Fr. piece.) 


See pie. 


See pittance. 


'See mutton. 


Although this first meant a young bird, 
the second syllable was not influenced by 
Fr. ieunc, young, as in Eng. junior. The 
present spelling, however, is from Fr. 
pigeon; the word was ME. pyjon, from 
OFr. pyioun, a young bird, then esp. a 
young dove ; from LL. pipion^m, a chirp- 
ing bird, from L. pipire, to peep, q.v., 
an echbic word. 

Several compounds are built on pigeon. 
Thus pigeon-hearted means timid ; pigeon- 


livered meant gentle : both from the ways 
of the bird. .\ pigeon pair means twins 
of opposite sexes, or a boy and a girl in 
the family, from the usual brood of the 
bird. Some humans are pigeon-breasted. 
Pigeons are often raised in a series of 
nests set in holes side by side; hence, 
pigeonhole, of a series of compartments ; 
to pigeonhole something is to file it for 
reference, or to get it out of the way. 

pigeon-breasted; pigeon-hearted; pi- 
geonhole; pigeon-livered. 

Sec pigeon. 


See arsenic. 


See pyt,'iny. 


This has many meanings, from sev- 
eral sources. The />i7f-driver puts in 
what began as a pointed stake, from 
AS. pil, dart, from L. pilum, javelin. 
A little ball, L. pila, is the source of 
the troubling piles. When things are 
piled up, they are from L. pila, pier; 
whence LL. pilare, whence OFr. piler, 
whence Eng. pillar. There are a few 
less common sources, in addition ; for 
the pile of velvet, see cloth. 


See pie. 


See belfry ; saunter. 


Sec pearl. 


See caterpillar. 


See pile. 


See wig. 


Probably more persons know The Scar- 
let Pimpernel (1905) as a book (and 
motion picture, and the nickname of the 
hero) by Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria 
Jose fa Barbara. Baroness Orczy, than are 
aware that it is a flower. It takes its 
name from the two-winged shape — bipin- 
nate — of the leaves ; for pimpernel is from 
LL. pipinella, by dissimilation from bipin^ 
ella, a diminutive of bipinnula, itself a 



diminutive from bipennis, two winged, 
from L. penna, feather, wing; whence 
Eng. pinnate, pennate; cp. pen. Also see 


See pamper. 


See attack. 


H. M. S. Pinafore (written in 1878) 
contained such satire of the Queen's Navy 
that, although Sullivan was knighted by 
the Queen, Gilbert did not receive the 
royal accolade until after Victoria's death. 

But the Victorian (,q.v.) tidiness began 
the century before. Imagine the Little 
Lady Fauntleroy of 1775 being warned 
"Don't spot your dress ! Here's some- 
thing to piyi afore it" — and you have the 
origin of the pinafore. 


Sec Appendix II. 


liincc, to adorn. Some have thought that 
t!ic flower w^s named from this pink, in 
the sense of cutting in and out the edges; 
but the verb does not seem to have had 
this meaning until the 19th c, whereas 
the flower was named as early as the 16th. 
It was, indeed, very popular, and some- 
times used as a general term for flower, as 
in the figurative expressions, the pink of 
courtesy, the pink of perfection. Cp. 

A pinker is one that stabs (or works 
a pinking machine, for edging cloth) ; a 
pinkster, however, is a Whitsuntide oc- 
casion (frolic, feast), a corruption of Gr. 
pentekoste, Pentecost, Gr. fiftieth (day). 
And a Pinkerton, originally Pinkerton 
man, is a detective, generalized from the 
agency established in the U. S. in 1850 
by Allan Pinkerton. 


See pink. 

pinna, pinnacle, pinnate. 

See pen. 


See chary.. The tree is directly from 
AS. pin, L. pinus. The pineapple was 
originally the fruit (cone) of the pine 
tree; then any fruit of similar shape; 
from its shape we also have named the 
pineal gland. Cp. peach. 


Sec pen. 


Several words have combined in this 
one. There is the imitation of the note 
of the chaftinch, or of water dripping: 
pink pank. Related to this, perhaps, is 
Du. pinkcn, to shut the eyes, to blink. 
From the half -shut eye comes the mean- 
ing of pink, small, surviving in pinkie, 
pinkey, little finger; also (G. Pinkc, min- 
now) pink, a small fish, esp. a young 
salmon. The color may have influenced 
this meaning; the color was probably 
named from the flower (though pink is 
applied to the variety, whatever its color) ; 
possibly the flower was named from pink 
eye, little eye, as in Fr. oeillet, little eye. 
There is also Eng. pink, from Du. pinke 
and It. pinco, a sailing boat, esp. (Eng. 
pinke and pinkey) a narrow-sterned fish- 
ing boat. 

The old Teut. word picken, to pick (Fr. 
piquer, prick ; whence also Eng. pique, 
piqne, piquant) was nasalized in Low G. 
as pinken, to peck, to pierce. This was 
applied to making little holes in garments ; 


Sec pawn. 


Sec pittance ; supercilious. 


See pit. 


This word first referred tu the pip- 
ing sound, and is imitative in origin — 
as also are L. pipiare, Fr. pepier, Eng. 
peep, and G. Pfcifer, whence Eng. 
fife. Then the noun came to have the 
general sense from the shape of the 
musical instrument; whence the 
tube, as for inhaling tobacco. 


See pit. 

piquant, pique, pique. 

See pink. Piquant is present parti- 
ciple ; pique, past. 


See private. 


See pot. The pit of fruit is cor- 
rupted from pip, short for pippin. Un- 
til the 16th c. pippin meant a seed ; 
tlien it was used for a seedling apple, 
which was naturally of good quality; 



hence the slang ''It's a pippin!" Pippin 
is from Fr. Pepin, from Sp. pepita, 
seed, grain, perhaps from Fr. petit, 
small (particle), from the Celtic; 
whence It. pezza, Fr. piece; Eng. piece. 
Hence also petty; and petticoat, from 
petty coat, first a coat men wore be- 
neath a doublet ; pettifogger, from 
petty -\- jogger, from the great mercantile 
family, Fugger, in Augsburg, 15th-16th 
c. ; influenced by Du. f acker, monopo- 
list ; focken, to cheat. 


See pay. 


This fellow exists also in the Gr. form 
pithecanthropos, and in the L. form pithe- 
canthropus. In all cases it is a late forma- 
tion, though for a very early form : the 
missing link. Though earlier said to exist 
(in the "Tertiary Period") the name was 
first definitely applied by Ernst Haeckel 
in 1868 to a creature supposedly halfway 
up the evolutionary scale from ape to 
man. The coinage is directly from Gr. 
pithekos, ape, -f- Gr. anthropos, man. 

Some naturalists speak of pithecan- 
thropus erectus, as the first creature un- 
feathered that stood upon two legs. The 
word has been put to learnedly jocular 
use, as in the pithecanthropic mummery, 
otherwise called monkey-business. 


An attempt (perhaps by the pious) 
has been made to derive this word 
from picta, a small coin issued by the 
counts of Poitiers (L. Pictavensium) ; 
whence OFr. pite, a French farthing, 
a mite. Rut LL. pietantia. which on to 
Olt. pietanza and Fr. pitance gave us 
the word, is from pietas, piety. The 
first use of pittance is as a charity 
bequest ; thus, the present meaning 
comes from the usual size of gifts to 
charity. Piety and pity (Fr. pitie) 
are doublets, one expressing the feeling 
as within oneself ; the other, the same 
feeling as it flows toward others. Pious 
is the same word, in its adjective form, 
from Fr. pieux, from LL. piosus, from 
L. pius, devout — the name of many 

See patter. 



See pittance. 


See platypus. 


This word existed first in the form 
of the agent, plagiary, referring both 
to the person and the act; Milton says: 
Borrowing without bettering is a plagi- 
arie. But what we apply to literary 
property the Romans applied to per- 
sonal ; L. plagiare, plagiat — , to steal 
a free man, from plagium, kidnapping, 
a snaring, from plaga, a net. The root 
Plak, to weave, is in Gr. plekein; Russ. 
pleste, to weave; L. plectere, plicare, 
whence Eng. implicate, to weave into ; 
cp. complexion. 

See plant, saxophone. 


Although influenced by plane (Fr. plan, 
flat; cp. saxophone), this was earlier Fr. 
plant, and was first used for a groimd- 
plan or outline, from L. planta, sole of 
the foot ; see plant. Hence, a scheme. 

Note that the expression plain sailing 
originally did not mean that the way ahead 
is simple and clear; it meant sailing by a 
plane plan: the earth shown as a plane 
surface instead of spherical. Plane was 
a fancy 17th c. alteration of plain, esp. 
in mathematics. May yours not often 
"gang agley" ! 


See plant. 


Before the regular movement of planets 
about the sun* was known, they seemed, 
to the ancients, stars wandering in the 
heavens. Hence the name. Gr. planan, to 
lead astray, in the passive form meant to 
wander ; hence, Gr. planetes asteres, wan- 
dering stars. Thus Latin used planetae to 
mean stellae errantes, wandering stars 
{cp. disaster; errand) ; whence, by the 
usual trail thi-ough LL. and Fr.. came 
our Eng. planets. 

A planetarium (cp. cell) is a place 
where a model of the planetary system is 
displayed, with Venus and Mars and Nep- 
tune and the other gods now tamed to 
their solar orbit. 

See garble. 


See plant. 



See plunge. 


This word grew from the sole of 
your foot. When seeds or saplings 
were planted, they were tucked into 
the ground, then the soil stamped down 
by tlie farmer's feet : L. planta, sole 
of foot, hence plant. The Fr. planter, 
to plant, developed the figurative sense, 
to establish ; whence a manufacturing 
plant, etc. Animal is anything that 
breathes, from L. animal, from animus, 
breath; Gr. anemos, wind, whence ane- 
mone, wind-flower. The breath of 
scandal, of ill-will, reveals an animus; 
if this is emphatic, L. animosus, full of 
breath, gives us animosity — which first 
meant high spirits, courage ; then grew 
limited to bad spirits, hatred. A nucleus, 
kernel, is the diminutive of L. nux, 
nuc — , nut. Protoplasm, the basic sub- 
stance of life, is from Gr. protos, first, 
from Gr. pro, before (protozoa, the 
first animal forms ; Gr. zoon, animal, 
plural eoa, whence also zoology, the 
study of animals) -j- plasma, fonn, from 
plassein, to mold. Hence also plastic; 
and recently the Gr. word has been 
taken directly, in blood plastna. Botany 
is also from Gr., botane, from boskein, 
to graze, which, via L. whence It. 
bosco, whence ME. busky, bushy, gives 
us bosky. Cp. flower; organism; 

The plantain is thus named because its 
leaves suggest the sole of a foot. The 
banana-like fruit, plantain, is corrupted 
from a native West Indian name to Sp. 
platano. plantano, whence Eng. plantain; 
there is no resemblance to L. platanus, 
plane tree. The eastern plane tree (Gr. 
platanos, from platys, broad ; cp. vessel) 
does have broad leaves. 

A plant, slang for swindle, is some- 
thing planted, i.e.. hidden in a place. 

Sec plunge. 


See knick-knack. An echoic word. 

plasma, plastic. 
See plant. 

See element: platinum. 


See fimny-bone. 



See plot. 

See element. 


The early Greek philosophers had no 
schoolhouse. Plato taught in a park in 
Athens; cp. academy. Aristotle taught 
while walking about; hence he is called 
tl.L- peripatetic philosopher (Gr. Peri, 
around -(- patetikos, from patein, to 
walk; pat OS, path). Aristotle's favorite 
walk was in a grove called the Lyceum, 
next to the temple of Apollo Lykeios 
(wolf-slayer ?, from Gr. lykos, wolf, 
whence Fr. loup, feminine louve, whence 
the Louvre, castle on a wolf -field) — 
whence our lyceum. Zeno taught in a 
portico or porch (Gr. stoa, porch) of 
the marketplace; hence, his ideas are 
called stoic. Associated with Plato is 
the amor Platonicus, Platonic love. See 


See vessel. 

Gr. platys, wide, combined in plateia 
odos, broad way, led to L. platea; thence 
by a LL. form plattia to Fr. and Eng. 
place. From the same LL. form came 
Sp and Eng. plaza, and It. and Eng. 
piazza — all three with variations due to 
the habits of the lands through which 
they have come. 

See explode. 


See platypus. 

pleat, pledge. 
See mortgage. 


See police; foil. 


Sec police. It comes directly from L. 
plenitas, pleniiat—, fulness, from plenus, 
full. Cp. foil. 


See police; foil. 


See complexion., pliant. 
See complexion. 




See mortgage. 

See plunge. 


Here is entanglement. A plot of 
ground is from Fr. pelote, clod, dimin- 
utive of L. pila, ball. Influenced by 
OFr. plat, plate, flat, whence Eng. 
plate (and in the Sp. Plata applied to 
metal plate, precious metal) it became 
plat of ground (which died) and plat- 
form (which destroyed the earlier plot- 
form). Its first use as an intrigue is 
in the form complot. (The first syl- 
lable of many words has dropped, 
giving us such doublets as fence and 
defence, from 'L. defender e, to beat off; 
sport and disport, from OFr. desporter, 
to carry away, divert; whence Eng. 
porter; cp. port; strain and distrain, 
from OFr. distreindre and estraindre, 
from L. stringere, stretch, influenced 
by sprain, from (DFr. espreindere, es- 
preign — , from L. exprimere, express — , 
whence Eng. express, originally mean- 
ing to press out — which sense has been 
taken over by strain; story and history, 
from Gr. historia, from histon, his- 
tor — , learned, from root eidenai, to 
know. Perhaps related to L. historia, 
a tale, is L. histrion, performer in a 
play, whence Eng. histrio and histrion, 
actor, common words in the 16th and 
17th c, now rare and usually con- 
temptuous ; also histrionics, now limited 
to stagey behavior.) It is suggested that 
complot, from OFr. complote, crowd, 
is also from OFr. pelote, ball, bunch; 
but it is more probably a shortening, 
complictum, of L. complicitum, from 
Complicare, complicat — , to fold to- 
gether, to intrigue. Kence one plotting 
with others is an accomplice; hence 
also complicate ; complex. Plots usually 
are complex. 


See shed. 


This word, as a verb, spread wide 
over Europe, being borrowed by the 
Teut. tongues from a LL. form (It. 
piluccare, to pluck) from L. pilus, hair, 
whence Eng. depilatory. But through 
the farmlands it was applied to the 
pluck of a fowl, the viscera, the parts 
the farmer would thrust in his hand and 
pluck forth. 


Various parts of the body, in folk 
physiology, are associated with different 
emotions. Thus the Bible speaks of the 
bowels of compassion; the factual basis 
of this may be noted in the more pithy 
expression, his bowels were loosed with 
fear. Thus the pluck came (esp. in 18th 
c. prize-fighting slang) to be considered 
the seat of courage, and gradually pluck 
acquired courage as its normal sense. 
Today, when one wishes to be forceful, 
one goes with folk physiology right back 
to the viscera, and exclaims That guy's 
got guts! 

Guts (in the plural also in AS. gutias) 
was thought of as a channel ; the word is 
from AS. geotan, to pour. 


See propaganda. 

plumb, plumbo — 
See plunge. 


See fleece. 

plummet, plump. 

See plunge. 


This is one of the few Eng. words 
taken directly from modem G. (ca. 
1640). The G. noun Plunder meant 
rags ; the verb plunderen was applied 
to carrying off everything, down to 
the very rags. A rather precise etymol- 
ogy for the present sense of plunder! 


With this word we plunge into a group 
of echoic words. The earliest is prob- 
ably L. plumbum, lead (^plumbo — is a 
combining form for chemical terms ; the 
chemical symbol for lead is Ph), from 
the sound lead makes when thrown into 
water. This sound in Eng. is plunk, some- 
times kerplunk; a lighter sound is plop; 
but in the same group are bump, dump, 
thump, rump-a-tum-tump; Shakespeare 
(Hamlet I,i, 65) has the ghost arrive 
"jump at this dead hour." Plump is the 
sound of something suddenly interrupted 
in motion; hence the adjective plump, 
meaning cut short, then applied to an 
arrowhead, blunt, rounded hence broad, 
hence pleasantly plump. 

Fr. plomb, lead, had the diminutive 
plombet, plomet, ball of lead used on the 
end of a string to check the depth of 
water ; hence, Eng. plummet. But this 
use of a plumb-line is older. L. plumbi- 
care meant to heave the lead; directly 



this gives us the verb to plumb tht depths ; 
and via OFr. plonquer, plongier, plunjer, 
it gives us Eng. plunge. 

To plank (sometimes plunk) a thing 
down may also be echoic; but it is at 
least influenced by the idea of putting it 
on the (plank) table. The plank of which 
the table is made is ME. planke, via Fr. 
and L. from Gr. plax, plak — , slab (of 
wood or marble), whence also Eng. 
plaque; and perhaps itself an echo of the 
sound this would make when cut or 

plural, plurality, plus. 

See foil. 


See cloth; cp. remnant. 


See democracy ; emblem. 


See fleet. 


See posthumous. 


The Gr. pneutna, air. spirit, gives us 
several combining forms. (There is a 
less frequent form, pneo — , as in pneo- 
dynamics, pneogastric, from Gr. pneein, 
pnein, to blow.) Pneumat — , pneumato — , 
are used mainly in scientific terms ; thus 
pneumatic means operating by air (as tires 
and pumps) or, rarely, related to the 
spirit, in religious use. Pneumo — is some- 
times used in the same way, but is more 
often used in medicine, as a shorter form 
of pneumono — ; both of these are from 
Fr. pneumon, lung, whence Eng. pneu- 

The dipnoan fish are those (like the 
mudfish) doubly equipped (Gr. di — 
two) : with lungs and gills. 


See pneumatic. 

poach, pock, pocket. 

See lobster. 


See spinster. 


See Appendix II. 



See intoxicate. 


See pungent. 


See palace. 


Several guesses have been made as 
to the origin of this name for the 
skunk. Pole for Polish; though why 
wish it on them? Also pool-c&i (Celtic 
poll, hole) : the cat that hides in a 
hole ; the trouble is that it doesn't. 
This is a case where your nose knows. 
Polecat is the pul-cat, from OFr. 
pulent, stinking : AS. ful, whence Eng. 
foul; L. puter, putr — , whence Eng. 
putrid; Sansk. puy, to stink, an imita- 
tive word, like Pyew! (The book in 
which I found this story has "No" 
next to it, in ink, in the margin ; but 
persons should not write in library 
books ! It is a much more appropriate 
source than the one now considered 
valid: polecat, from OFr. pole, whence 
Fr. poule, hen, whence Eng. poult, 
poultry— irom its preying on the folk 
of the farmyard. I'oult has a doublet, 
pullet, from L. pulla, hen, pullus, young 
animal.) But see curfew; cp. poltroon. 


Meaning, first, the regulation of 
order in a place, this word is from 
Gr. polis, polit — , city — from which 
come politics and its attendant train. 
Contrasting city-ways with country 
style gives us the sense of a cii>il 
tongue (L. civis, city, whence Eng. 
cizAlian, etc.) and urbanity; cp. neigh- 
bor. Thus police might be expected 
to yield politeness and polish; but no! 
Polite and polish are from Fr. polir, 
poliss — , from L. polire, polit — , from 
po, from pro, before + lire, from linere, 
to smear, whence Eng. liniment. 

But polis, city, [which gives us such 
compounds as metropolis (Gr. meter, 
whence L. mater, mother), strictly, the 
chief cathedral city of a land ; cosmo- 
politan (Gr. cosmos, cosmet — , order, 
the ordered universe, kosmein, to ar- 
range, whence Eng. cosmetics, things 
to put one in order; cosmic; etc.)] 
was originally a crowd — only later, a 
crowd organized into a community — , 
whence Sansk. puri, town, from pari, 
from par, to fill, whence Gr. pie (Eng. 
plenitude, plenty, plethora), whence Gr. 
pel, full, whence polis, a crowd. Cp. 
foil. Thus from the earliest days, where 



there is a crowd you may expect the 
police. Cp. pagan; gas. 

polish, polite. 

See police. 

See Appendix II. 


This is a Teut. word (Ehj. polle, crown 
of the head) for head, as in the poll-tax; 
hence voting where they count the heads, 
at the polls. To poll is to trim the top 
(of person, hedge, tree) ; hence pollard. 
Pretty Poll is from Polly, Molly, Mary : 
Polly wants a cracker ! 

Some senses of Pole, q.v., intermingle 
with poll, e.g., poleaxe, earlier pollax, an 
ax at the head, but also on a pole. 


This word has become general, from 
the young heroine of Eleanor H. 
Porter's story, PoUyanna, 1913. Polly- 
anna is the "glad child," who always 
sees the best in things. 


See Appendix II. 


See element. 


There are three stories given for this 
word, which earlier meant idle, sloth- 
ful. Manifestly, the adolescent is lazy; 
hence the derivation from It. poltro, 
foal, from LL. pullitrus, diminutive of 
L. pullus, young animal, whence Eng. 
pullet. But, as the lazy are often found 
abed, it is also derived from poltro, 
a bed, from polstro, from G. polster^ 
cushion, wiience Eng. bolster. An idle 
fellow, dodging work, can easily be 
called a coward. There is, finally, a 
much more direct derivation. When 
recruiting sergeants simply went from 
house to house, rounded up any able 
bodied men, and conscripted them for 
service, one way of dodging draft was 
to show that your thumb was cut 
off (rupture, flat feet, etc. did not 
count in those unenlightened days!): 
L. pollice truncus, maimed of the thumb 
(L. truncus, trunk, whence truncare, 
truncatus, to cut off, whence Eng. 
truncate) ; from this expression we have 
poltroon, the coward that cuts off his 
tlninib to avoid army service. 


See foil. 



See monk. 


See remorse. 


See monk. 

pomade, pomegranate. 

See pommel. 


The knob on a saddle gets its name 
from its shape, from OFr. pomel, from 
diminutive of L. pomum, apple. To hit 
someone with such a knob-shaped 
weapon is to pommel or pummel him. 
If the apple is full of seeds (L. grana- 
tum, seeded) it is a pomegranate. In 
Fr. pomegrenade was shortened to 
grenade, whence our fire-ball, grenade, 
and the military grenadier. An un- 
guent supposedly made of apple-sauce, 
It. pomatum, gives us pomade, which 
in medicine has been reLatinized to 
pomatum. What we call a potato, from 
Sp. patata, from Haytian batata, is in 
Fr. pomme de terre, apple of the earth, 
and in G. Erdapfel, earth-apple. 

The drink grenadine is from the 
fruit ; the fabric grenadine is marked 
as with grains (L. granatum, with 
seeds or grains; whence Eng. grain 
and granary). The garnet ring you 
miglii wear takes its name from the 
color of the pulp of the fruit; garnet 
has shifted by metathesis from grenat, 
earlier granat. Which is far from 


See pontiff. 


See Appendix II. 


See pound. 

ponder, ponderous. 

See aggravate. 


See cloth. 


See pygmy. 

pontiST, pontifical. 

Here is a word on which the folk- 
mythology worked early. Pontiff is 



from L. pontifex, high priest (one of 
five), from pons, pont — , bridge + 
facere, feci — , to make. Thus Momm- 
sen, in his History of Rome, 1,178: 
"The five bridgebuilders (pontifices) 
derived their name from their func- 
tion, afi sacred as it was politically im- 
portant, of conducting the building and 
demolition of the bridge over tlic 
Tiber." Milton, Paradise Lost,X,3\3, 
and Longfellow, The Golden Legend, 
V, use the word with similar reference 
to this meaning. Others, pointing out 
that L. pont — is from Gr. patos, Sansk. 
patha, path, way, remind us that the 
Romans were great road builders ; as 
were the medieval clergy, esp. with 
roads for pilgrims to sacred shrines. 
All this makes it somewhat anticlimactic 
to remark that pontifex is original!}' 
a variation of pompifex ; Oscan pontc ; 
Umbrian pontis, from Gr. pompe, re- 
ligious procession, from pempein, lo 
send : one that directs the rituals. Hence 
pomp and ceremony. The change from 
m to n is frequent; it may be seen, 
e.g., in Pompeius, whence Pontius, the 
man who wished a pilot to steer him to 
the truth — to which we have not yet 
huih the bridge. Perhaps it is a bridge 
that must rest on faith ; hence only the 
priest, the pontifex, may build ! Truth 
is from AS. getrlewe, from trcozv, 
faith. The trouble is that we afre told 
truth is at the bottom of a well; but 
each one looking therein sees only his 
own image. 


See abbot. 


See cloth. 


See mutton. 


See mutton. 


See aard-vark; mutton. 


The harbor or gate to a city is the 

avenue of much concern ; thus, many 
words have sprung from L. partus, 
whence AS. port, harbor. In the sense 
of gate (L. porta) it survives in port- 
hole, sally-port, and portcullis (Fr. 
coulisse, sliding, from couler, to flow). 
Port wine is Portuguese, from o porto, 


the harbor. Since the entrance to a 
city is the avenue of supply, L. portare 
means to bear ; hence Fr. porter, to 
carry, whence Eng, port (as in Port 
arms!), porter {porter, the drink, is 
short for porter's ale; porterhouse is 
a tavern for porters, formed like ale- 
house; and porterhouse steak was a 
specialty of a well-known New York 
tavern of the 19th c), portly, deport- 
ment, and the river portage (cognate 
with L. port is AS. and Eng. ford, a 
place where one can carry things across 
a stream. The automobile is named, of 
course, after Henry Ford, its manufac- 
turer). Cp. Bosphorns. 

If something is safely at the harbor 
(L. 00 -\- portunus) it is opportune, 
and presents an opportunity; if it fails 
to arrive at the proper time, it is in- 
opportune. Earlier, such failure was 
importune, importunate (Fr. importim, 
from L. importunus, unfit) ; from mean- 
ing untimely, these words came t6 mean 
troublesome, then insistent. 

Import and export mean to carry in 
and out (of a harbor, or country) ; 
important is that which is worth bring- 
ing in, that which has weight, is of 
value ; this sense is found also in the 
import of one's remarks. Portunus was 
tl'.e Roman god of harbors. 


See cataract, port. 

porter, porterhouse. 

See port ; plot. 


When you pose you pause — etymolog- 
ically also: from Fr. poser, from LL. 
pausare. A poser is a question or 
thought that makes you pause. Hence 
compose, to pause together; propose, to 
pause in behalf of; expose — this last 
word bids us pause. 

Tliere is a L. word ponere, posit — , 
to place, which gives us compound, 
propound, expound. But the middle 
ages found it convenient to pduse wlien 
they placed something — and the first 
word above replaced the second, and 
tangled its meaning along. Thus expose 
is to place out (where all may view). 
Proposal is from the first source; but 
the two L. verbs fuse in composition, 
exposition, proposition. You pause when 
you place yourself in position for a 
pose. An imposition is a putting upon, 
either as a bishop lays on his hand or 
as a deceiver "puts one over on you," 



or — earlier — as a special punishment is 
put upon you. May you be spared two 
of the three! Cp. posthumous. 


See pose. 


See dose. 


When a criminal is at large, the 
whole force of the county may be 
roused for his capture. This, the word 
posse tells us; from L. posse comitatus, 
the force of the county. L. posse, pot — , 
(Eng. potent; cp. husband), from L. 
potts, powerful, -f- esse, to be. See any 
"Western" film. Hence also, possible, 
of that which has power to be. 


See subsidy. 


See posse. 


See posthumous. 


Amateur gardeners are glad to pur- 
chase humus, good earth. And they 
have put an h into posthumous, as 
though it refers to the time after the 
ground has covered one. But a posthu- 
mous work is just th« very very last, 
from L. postwnus, the superlative of 
post, after. Post is, of course, a fre- 
quent prefix in Eng. P.M. is Post 
meridian, after noon, from L. nfendes, 
from medidies, from medi, mid -\- dies, 
day. A soldier's Post or station is LL. 
postum, from positum, from ponere, 
posit — , cp. pose. Hence also position; 
deponent, present participfe of deponere, 
to place down ; and the po.'tt that is 
placed in the ground. The postman was 
originally a fellow stationed (with 
horses) along a road, to pass on mes- 
sages as the stick is passed in a relay 
race. The word was transferred from 
his place to his burden. 


5"^^ limen. 


See posthumous. 


See shrine. 



This is a late AS. Potte, from LL. 
Pottus. Its origin seems to be a case 
of metonymy : contained becomes the 
container, the figure in "He's fond of 
the bottle." LL. pottus is from L. 
potus, drink, / from potare, potat — , to 
drink, whence Eng. potation; also po- 
tion; cp. intoxicate. When we say 
someone has gone to pot, however, we 
do not mean that he is inebriate; thie 
pot is from OE. put, from AS Pyt, 
whence Eng. pit; used esp. of the pit 
of hell. Thus Gawin Douglas in his 
translation of the Aeneid, 1553, pictures 

Deip in the soroufull grisle hellis pot. 

A potboiler is a piece of writing that 
in one sense has gone to pot. See 


See intoxicate. 

potash, potassium. 
See element. 


See pot, intoxicate. 


See pommel. 


See catchpenny, pot. 

potent, potentate, potential. 

See husband. From the present 
participle, L. potent — , potential is that 
which is coming into power. 


See intoxicate. 

Potters' Field. 

See acre. 


See wallop. 


See lobster. 

See pelt 

See polecat. 


See dollar. 



Pound, an enclosure for animals, is 
a doublet of pond, an old Teut. word. 


This has always been a fine dust. L. 
pulvis, pulver — , dust (whence also Eng. 
pulverize) by way of OFr. puldre, poldre, 
poudrc, became Eng. powder. Thence also 
the early piepowder court; cp. pie. 


The L. posse, potui, to be able {cp. 
posse; husband) developed a LL. potere. 
Through the Romance shiftings this be- 
came podeir, thence OFr. poeir, wheire 
(now as a noun from the verbal use) OE. 
poeir, pouer, and Eng. power. From the 
early sense of ability to do something, 
the meaning has been extended in vari- 
ous directions; as, numbers raised to the 
second Power; horse-power ; the powers 
among the orders of angel. 


See lobster. 


See empiric. 


See surprise. 


See Appendix II. 


See ambulance. 

See element. 

pray, prayer. 

See- precarious. The bird of Prey is 
via OFr. preie, from L. praeda, prey, 
whence also />reda/ory— perhaps con- 
tracted from L. praehendere, to seize; 
cp. surrender. 


See verdict. 


When you are angry at some one, 
you may heap imprecations upon him, 
from L. im, from in, against -f /»recart, 
precat—, to pray. But if you are in 
<loubt as to the outcome of a situation, 
you are likely to be full of prayer (L. 

/rrrnrt H osus, whence — ous, full 

of) ; hence your situation is precarious 
Precious has no relation to this; for 
it, .lee cornelian. 


A deprecatory tone is one that seeks 
to "pray down" something you do not 
wish to be blamed for. And prayer 
itself is via OFr. preiere, from L. 
precari, to pray, from L. prex, prec — 
prayer. The college term Prexy is, of 
course, a contraction of President, the 
one that sits before ; c/>. subsidy. 


See disciple. 


The police districts of a city draw 
their name from the fact that they 
were measured around (L. prae, before 
-\- cingere, cinct — , to gird). But when 
you exclaim "That's a cinch!" you are 
drawing from the same source. Sp. 
cincha is the belt strap that holds on 
the horse's saddle, whence Eng. cinch; 
when this is tight the saddle is se- 
cure, cinched. The disease shingles 
(OFr. cengle, from L. cingulum, dimin- 
utive, from cingere) is so named be- 
cause often its eruptions ring the body. 
The shingles on a roof — which giv< 
the pattern for a style of trimming 
women's hair — are ME. shindle, '''rom 
L. sciiulula, diminutive, from scindere, 
scidi, sciss — , to split, whence Eng. 
scission, scissors, etc. Cp. shed. 


See carnelian. 


See close. 


See apricot. 


See pray. 


Sec determine. 

predicament, predicate, predict. 

See verdict. 


Sec sacrifice. 


Sec quaint, ransom; drink. 


See propaganda. 


See defeat. (L. pre—, before: to ap- 
point before). 




See suffer. 

See fix. 


Sec surrender. 

See suffer. 

See limen. 

premise, premiss. 

Sec mess. 


See quaint. 


See overture. 


See aggravate. 


Originally this referred to things out 
of their proper order (L. prae, before 
+ poster, after) ; the cart before the 
horse ; but in these automoljile days it 
is applied to anything that seems to 
deviate from the natural. The figure 
of speech hysteron proteron has exactly 
the same meaning: (Gr. hysteron, 
\zi\.cT -\- proteron, former). When a 
salesman offers you a glowing picture 
of profits, so vivid you begin to see 
yourself spending what you have not 
yet made, his proposition is probably, 
in both senses, J>reposlerous. 


See quaint. 

presbyter, Presbyterian. 

See priest. 

prescribe, prescription. 

These words once referred to a title- 
page, or ar^ introduction; they are from 
L. pre — before, -|- scribere, script — , to 
write; cp. shrine. Hence, of the words 
written down to be followed, as by a 

present, presentation, presentiment, 

See loafer, ascend. 


See family. 



See subsidy. 


See command, cp. plot. 

See prestige. 


A prestidigitator may not have much 
prestige among men of science ; but 
they cannot be too strict. Frestxge 
originally meant a conjurer's trick; 
thence, the power to dazzle, to charm ; 
thence, the elevation due to the general 
admiration. As a conjurer's trick, it is 
from L. praestigium, delusion, from 
pracstigiae, juggler's tricks, from 
praestrigiae, from praestringere, to bind 
before (to blindfold, therefore to hood- 
wink), from prae, hciort-^ stringcre, 
strict — to bind, to draw. The early 
£ng. for conjurer was thus prestigiator; 
this became influenced by the technique, 
and from Fr. preste, from It., whence 
Eng. presto {change-0), with L. digi- 
tator, manipulator, from digitus, finger, 
whence Eng. digit, gives us prestidigita- 
tor, one who makes things disappear 
with his fingers (sometimes used of a 

We have wandered a bit from the 
narrow path, for "strait is the gate, 
and narrow is the way, which leadeth 
unto life" (Matthew, vii, 14). Strait 
and strict (L. strictus, narrow) are 
doublets, from L. stringere, strict — . to 
draw, to bind. This word has a nu- 
merous progeny. By another path (ME. 
stranen, from streynen, from OFr. es- 
traindre, from stringere) comes strain. 
Hence constrain and constrict are 
doublets (L. con, from cum, together, 
i.e. to draw tight). So are restrain 
and restrict, to bind back. Distrain 
(L. di, from dis, apart) gives us also 
the noun distress (from OFr. destrece, 
from L. district — ), which first meant 
the legal holding apart of goods,* as a 
pledge for the redressing of a wrong; 
hence, the sorrow caused by such with- 
holding. District is the territory held 
apart, under the jurisdiction of a feudal 
lord. The present participle kii stringere 
is stringens, stringent — ; whence Eng. 
stringent. By earlier Anglo-Saxon paths 
come other related forms." String is 
from AS. streng ; L. stringere, to bind. 
G. streng; AS. strong, .gives Eng. 
strong. But see strike. 



Strain, in the sense of the strain 
of his speech, or he is of noble strain, 
is from ME. streen, from AS. streon, 
gain, from AS. strienan, to obtain, to 
beget. Straight conies by a slightly dif- 
ferent path from the same basic mean- 
ing as strait : ME. strexchi, streght, 
taut, the past participle of strecchen, 
whence Eng. stretch, from AS. streccan, 
to stretch : stretched; hence, the shortest 
distance between two jxiints before 

Cord is from Gr. chordon, gut, hence 
string of musical instrument; also spelled 
chord; but chord, in music, does not 
deserve the h, added as though from 
the Gr. ; it is from earlier cord, pphetic 
for accord, from Fr. accorder, from L. 
corda, harp-string (influenced by L. 
cor, cord — , heart, whence cordial), 
whence Eng. concord, discord, accordion : 
Thus concord, e.g. combines the notion 
of strings plucked together and of 
hearts that beat as one. Twine is from 
AS. twin, whence Eng. twin, twain, 
twice, from AS. twH, two : two strands 
twisted together; the idea of twisting 
dominates the verbs twine and entwine. 


See prestige; cp. hocus-pocus. 

presume, presumptuous. 

See prompt. 

pretend, pretentious. 

See tennis. 


See text. 


This word, via G. may be from 
LL. hracellus, bracelet. But it may 
more pleasantly have come from L. 
pretiola, a little reward — this being the 
sort of cake the monks gave, in the 
16th c, to good children that had 
learned their prayers. The twist may 
thus represent the folded arms of the 
devout monk. Speaking of monks, there 
is another tale. Antimony is a LL. 
word ; there is the doubtful suggestion 
that it is from Arab. cU-ithmid,. the 
name of the element. But folk-etymol- 
ogy traces the word (frcsn Fr. anti- 
moine, from LL. antimonium, against 
monks, monk's bane) to the man that 
found pigs grew fat on antimony mixed 
with grain, whereupon he fed it to 
some lean ascetic monks — ^who died of 
it. The Arab, word was corrupted in 


Gr. as stimmid — , L. stibium; whence 
the chemical symbol for the element 
is Sb. Also suggested is anti-monos, 
against being alone, as it usually oc- 
curs in combination, Such combinations 
turn etymology into a pretzel! But also 
see element. 


A crook is one that has wandered 
from the straight path. Prevaricate 
(L. praevaricari, to walk crooked, from 
Prae, before -\- varicare, to straddle, 
from varus, bent, knock-kneed) sim- 
ilarly grew from a literal to a figura- 
tive use. The same L. root gives us 
Eng. varicose (L. varix, varic — , the 
crooked and swollen vein). A man 
whose legs are crooked should at least 
keep a straight face. 


This word means, literally, come be- 
fore (L. prae, htioTt-\- venire, vent — , 
come). If a kindly person arrives be- 
fore you, he gets things in pleasant 
readiness; hence the Common Prayer 
Book beseeches : "Prevent us, O Lord, 
in all our doings." In the more mundane 
stretches of our lives, he that comes 
before is likely to gather whatever is 
worth the taking, so that indeed late- 
comers are prevented from securing 
what they might desire. Circumvent 
(L. circuvi, around) has developed a 
similar implication. Event, however, 
that which eventuates (L. e, ex, out) 
has remained morally neutral, meaning 
merely that which comes out, the out- 
come. Thus also a convention (L. cum, 
together) is merely a coming together, 
hence an agreement (as we say "Let's 
get together on this;" a get-together); 
hence, something generally agreed upon, 
a general usage; whence, conventional- 
ism, conventionality, etc. A convent 
(from Church L.) is a place to come 
together; in ME. it was covent (cp. 
Fr. couvent), which remains in .Covent 
Garden, London. Convenient (from the 
present participle, veniens, venient — ) 
has followed a more pleasant path : 
coming together, therefore agreeing, 
suitable, fit. An invention is a thing 
come upon. Cp. speed. 


See pray. 

See surprise. 




See attack. 


See prude. 


The Gr. presbys, old, had the compara- 
tive form presbyteros, elder. This word 
was applied to the elders of the com- 
munity, then of the church community. 
By way of the L., and OE. prcost, it be- 
came Eng. priest; but at the time of the 
Reformation, there was drawn more di- 
rectly the term presbyter, and Presby- 
terian— ^. church in which the highest 
rank is the presbyter or elder. Prcster 
John is of the same source, OFr. prestre 
from L. presbyter. 


This word seems to be of cant ongm; 
applied (perhaps from prick, from the 
piercing of pots to repair them) first, in 
the . 16th c, to a tinker ; thence to a wan- 
dering or petty thief. But it was soon 
used with much greater emphasis in re- 
ligion; and it is suggested that it devel- 
oped from a LL. pregare from L. precare, 
to pray {cp. precarious), as applied to 
those that put on airs of great religion ; 
precisians in devotion. Thus a religious 
tract of 1684 speaks of the worldly PR . . . 
IG...S (meaning ^roud and i^orant 
ones) as the cause of schism in the 


When a book is called a primer 
(short t) it is usually a first reader, 
an elementary guide, in the field, from 
L. prime, first, whence Eng. prime. 
With the long i, however, it is one that 
dresses or trims the reader; this sense 
is more often applied to the priming 
of a gim ; it is from earlier Eng. 
Prein, from proin, which is the same 
word as prune (of trees). Cp. propa- 
ganda. See orient. 

Note, however, that thus preparing or 
priming a gun, etc., is always something 
that must be done first; so that the two 
senses intertwine. From the L. adjective 
comes Eng. primitive. Prime, first in 
order, came therefore to be used of first 
in quality, as prime ribs of beef. Cp. 
sirloin; biill. 


See orient. 


This seems to be the prime (first) 


rose, early-budded through the snow. 
Thus Wordsworth, The River Duddon: 

And gazing, saw the Rose, which from 

the prime 
Deserves its name. 

It is, however, not connected with the 
rose — save by folk association, which 
changed the ending — being earlier prim- 
erols, from primerole, from Fr. prim- 
verole, from It. primaverola, diminutive 
of primavera, "the firstling of spring," 
from OFr. verd, green, from L. virid — . 
Vera is the goddess of spring. Rose 
is via L. rosa, from Gr. r/»odon,whencc 
Eng. rhododendron, rose-tooth tree; cp. 
east — probably of Oriental origin. 

Similarly rosemary has no connection 
with either Rose or Mary, but is from 
LL. rosmarinus, sea-spray, from its 
growing along the coast. By a (false) 
association with L. mas, mari, male, 
whence maritus, husband, the rosemary 
was long worn at weddings. By a 
similarly natural interpretation of the 
sound, marigold was assumed to be 
the golden flower of the Virgin Mary; 
it is really a folk corruption of AS. 
merscgealla, from mear, marsh, whence 
Eng. marsh, mere, from L. mare, sea 
-\-geallo, gall. 


See command. The first sense was of 
a mark pressed in, as a footprint; this 
remains m the printed word. 

prior, priority. 

See ransom. 

See surprise. 

See baseball. 


See private. 


This first meant without office or 
(of a soldier) rank, from L. privates, 
bereaved, from privare, to deprive, from 
Privus, single; whence also privation, 
and, by way of Fr. prive, Ejig. privy. 
The shrub privet, earlier prim {prime, 
early-green) was changed because of 
its use to ensure privacy. In the 17th 
c, the English government issued "let- 
ters of marque" to owners of a "private 
man of war," authorizing them to attack 
enemy merchant vessels; by analogy 




with volunteer, such a ship was called 
a privateer; then, its crew. The synony- 
mous pirate is from L., from Gr. 
peiratcs, from peiran, to attempt, at- 
tack. When we speak of the privileged 
class, we mean the group that has its 
own special laws: privilege is from L. 
privus -^ lex, legis, law; cp. legible. 

privation, privet, privilege, privy. 

See private. 


See surprise. 


See compromise. Thus we speak of the 
pros and cons of a matter. For ally, see 


In school, problems are things the 
teacher puts in your way; in real life, 
a problem is thrown in front of you, 
and you must work your way past. And 
the word is from Gr. problema, thing 
thrown before, from pro, before -\-bal- 
lein, to throw. Cp. parlor, where prob- 
lems used to be discussed. 

proceed, process. 

See ancestor. 


See climate. 

Procrustean (bed). 

Between Athens and Sparta, just 
where a traveller might wish to spend 
the night, dwelt Procrustes, a giant 
with a keen sense of the fitness of 
things. He offered the passerby a bed ; 
if the man was too short, Procrustes 
stretched him to fit; if too long, he 
lopped off the excess. The effort to 
fit any new situation into preconceived 
notions is Procrustean. 

proctor, procure. 

See accurate. 


See duke. 


That wliich was outside the temple 
(L. pro, before, outside, -|- fanum, tem- 
ple; whence Eng. fane) was of course 
irreligious. Note, however, that the tem- 
ple was first associated with rejoicing; 
the word fane (cp. fanatic) is from an 
earlier fasnom, related to festum, feast. 

whence Eng. festival and festive. Also 
related is L. feria, holiday, whence the 
county fair. The fair maidens were com- 
mon Teut., Goth, fagrs, fit. The word 
first meant beautiful; it was then con- 
trasted to foul, which first meant ugly; 
then both were used figuratively, as in 
fair play, foul play. Dark women being 
deemed sinister, even foul, the word fair 
took on its meaning of light. 

This same fair, however, OE. faegre, 
through its cognate, G. fegen, to clean, 
to make fair, was used figuratively — 
clean sweep, clean up, etc. ; from this 
came early Eng. feague, feake, to polish 
up ; and the current slang, fake. A faker 
is not to be confused with the eastern 
fakir, faquir, from Arab, faqir, poor, 
applied by transfer from the beggar to 
the religious mendicant, not at all pro- 


See suffer. 


See prophet. 


We think of this as a side view ; it was 
first an outline drawing, as though one 
had traced a thread around — from L. 
pro — , forth, -f- filare, to spin, from 
filum, thread. 


Sec prophet. 

profound, profuse. 

See futile. 


See racy. 

prognosis, prognosticate. 

Sec prophet. 


See issue. 

Sec forbid. 


See subject. 

proletarian, proletariat, proliferate, 
prolific, prolix. 
See world. 


5"^^ Atlas, and next entry. 




The well-known myth tells us that, 
for having shown man the secret of 
fire, Prometheus was fastened to a 
rock by the gods, with a vulture for- 
ever eating his forever renewed en- 
trails. The name Prometheus means 
the provident (Gr. promethes, fore- 
thinking). But this is probably a Greek 
corruption, to make intelligible and 
give a story to Sansk. pramantha, the 
fire-drill (spindle that was whirled to 
set dry leaves and wood-crumbs afire). 
Note that one of the names of the 
devil is Lucifer, the light-bringer (L. 
luci — , Wghi -{-fcrre, to bring). Stories 
are woven about many things of old. 
Thus, the biblical remark, it is easier for 
a camel to go through a needle's eye 
than for a rich man to enter the king- 
dom of heaven, is explained in this 
manner : The shape of the small 
postern gate of the eastern walled city 
led to its being called "The Needle's 
Eye;" a camel can go through only 
by kneeling. This pretty parable seems 
to collapse when the Aramaic version 
reveals that the original word was not 
camel, but rope. But the folktales keep 
on growing. 


With L. com, con, together, altogether, 
we have to consume, consumption of food 
and the disease that takes you altogether, 
consumption. Soup that has "taken all 
the nourishment" from the meat is (di- 
rectly from the Fr.) consomme. To take 
something first is to be presumptuous; to 
take it for granted ahead of time is to 
presume. To take back (an activity, 
hence, to start over) is to resume; hence 
a going back and giving the gist of a 
thing is to present (directly from the Fr.) 
a resume. So generally did F. sumere 
become the term for taking, that there 
even developed a second prefix sub, under: 
hence, Eng. subsume, to take under (to 
include within another grouping, etc). 
Note that sum, summit (cp. azimuth) ; 
consummate, the highest altogether ; con- 
summation, are from L. summus, highest ; 
not on this trail. 

Back to the simple F. emere, to take, 
with the prefix pro, forth, ahead, we have 
promerc, prompt — ; hence, Eng. prompt. 
This was first a verb, to incite. That 
which went forth in good time was 
prompt; hence, also, the theatrical prompt- 
book, so that, if an actor does not come 
forth at the right moment, you rnay 
prompt him. From the final consumption, 
no mortal is exempt. 


See ache, immunity. 


Sec compromise. 

See mute. 


The F. emere, cmpt — first meant to 
take ; as conditions grew more orderly, 
and the accepted method of taking was 
by purchase, it added the meaning, to 
buy. From it have come quite a number 
of words: cp. quaint; ransom. Something 
taken out. for instance, for others to go 
by, is exemplary. The manner or tone of 
one accustomed to taking ( F. per, through, 
thoroughly, used as an intensive) is per- 

To take under one's wing, to take in 
liarge (F. sub, under) was sumere, 
sumpt — . From the lavishness of those 
that used to take, e.g., the Roman cir- 
cuses in charge, came F. sumptus, ex- 
pense; snmptuosus, lavish (cp. supercil- 
ious) ; whence, Eng. sumptuous. But in 
turn F. sumere became the source of 
other forms. To take to oneself (F. ad, 
to) gave us Eng. assume, assumption. 


One should always seek the source 
of propaganda. The word itself comes 
from pro, iorth -]- pago, pagere (earlier 
Pacere, pangere), pact — , to fasten, to 
plant; whence propago, a layer, a shoot. 
(From the simple form pago, pagin — , 
a fastening, we have Eng. page, pagina- 
tion. The court page is from FF. pa- 
gins, perhaps from G. /)a//itVMJ, sufferer, 
whence Eng. pathic.) Thus propaganda 
is the F. gerundive, th?.t wliich should 
be planted or bound forth: first applied 
to grafting shoots {cp. graft) ; then by 
the Church in Rome, which in 1622 
founded the Congregatio de propaganda 
fidei, for the propagation of the faith. 
Though propaganda may not work for 
peace, peace and pact are from the same 
source; also appease, pacify; compact, 
impact, all with the sense of binding — 
even pachyderm (Gr. paxos, firm, from 
Sansk. pac, bind -f derm, hide ; thus 
Eng. epidermis: Gr. epi, on, besides). 
The word pay, to clear a debt, is also 
from F. pacare, to appease, whence FL. 
pacare, to pay, q.v. 

By another path, F. propago, propa- 
gin — , a shoot, whence It. propaggine, 
whence Fr. provigner (possibly influ- 



enced by Fr. vigne, vine), whence prog- 
ner, to plant a shoot or sucker; this, 
from its allied task of cutting off the 
suckers, then the excess twigs, gives 
us OE. proin, proine, whence Eng. 
prune. Gascoigne, in The Steele Glas, 
458, says that imps {cp. graft) "grow 
crookt, because they be not proynd". 
Birds prune (whence preen) themselves 
by plucking out feathers; hence, the 
ladies that preen — though it has also 
been suggested that this preening is 
from proinen, from OFr. poroindre, 
from per -\- oindre, from L. ungere, 
unct — , to anoint, whence Eng. unguent, 
anointing oil ; unction; unctuous (L. 
— osus, full of, whence Eng. — ous: full 
of anointing oil, hence oily). Anoint is 
from OFr. enoindre, from L. inungere, 
from in, on + ungere, to pour oil. 

Prune, the fruit, is not related to this 
word. We confuse prunes and plums to- 
day : prune is usually limited to the 
dried plum, but is also applied to the 
small purple plum (whence the color, 
and the cloth prunella) that is used 
for the drying: but plum and prune are 
the same word in origin, being doublets 
of Gr. prounon, plum. Stick in your 
thumb and pull out propaganda, Stt 


See pelt. 


See aggravate. 


This is one that speaks ahead of the 
time, from Gr. pro — before, + pHetes, 
speaker, from phanai, to speak. Through 
LL. propheti(f. and OFr. prophecie came 
Eng. prophecy; to prophesy was from the 
OFr. verb prophesier. Or else prophet 
was j ust one that spoke forth : Gr. 
prophetes came to mean interpreter. 

One's profit (as when one was pro- 
phetic of the market) is via OFr. profit 
from L. proficere, profect